The other grade level teachers and I at my school had been fretting about what to do with one section of the grade that is…ummmm…”special” to say the least. It was obvious to me from the first day that although the administration wouldn’t come right out and say it, the students had been tracked and the section that was beginning to get the rep as the most challenging was the class full of the students who probably had some undiagnosed learning disabilities and/or were slackers.

We switched a few key students out to other sections and hoped for the best. The best never came, of course, but the vibe in the room did get a tad bit less chaotic with three leaders in the classroom who were strong students and rather bright, also.

I got a note from one of the learning disabled or slacker (still not sure yet which category she fits in to). It read something to the effect: “I know it is your first year teaching and you are doing great. I wrote this note because you are the only teacher who cares about our feelings. I appreciate you being hard on us and I know I am failing your class. I’m doing bad in all of them. Please tell me what I am supposed to be doing to get good grades.”

This note really floored me. I, of course, felt for her. I was always a nerd and never really had to struggle much in school, but as a teacher I am beginning to see how the kids who did have to struggle can feel so overwhelmed by what teachers and smart kids find to be simple standards in being a student.

The girl who left me the note seems to be making rather obvious choices that are causing her to fail. For instance, after a week of my reminding her class several times a day of their notebook check at the end of the week, this student leaves her notebook in her locker. I know she didn’t do it on purpose, but how can you not make that a priority when you have been told over and over and over that this is a part of your grade and will be collected at the top of the class period…no exceptions? And to my knowledge, the students had been having notebook checks in other classes over the past week or two so this procedure should have been very much in her recent memory.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to the student before school ended on Friday so I am planning on calling her house to see what she thinks the problem is. Her mother has told me that she doesn’t seem to be motivated this year and she is concerned about her, too. What is going on in the minds of students? I see this young lady making very little effort on a regular basis and then being close to tears when her grades reflect that.