Sunday, January 25, 2009

New grade rule

One week during the first quarter, we got a whole bunch of new students, all transfers from other schools. No one told us why or how, though we found out later it was the result of funding issues. Getting a whole bunch of new students on already high count of 153 was a challenge, but I did my best to make them feel welcome. The first couple of months is so important in the ninth grade, though, and these kids - who already mostly had poor skills - had missed that. Only one of them did the makeup work I gave them, and I wasn't really sure how to give them a grade for the first quarter. I followed the lead of a veteran teacher I respected, who gave them a 60 for the first quarter; I did this, even though they had not earned it.

Since that time, I've gotten to know these students a lot better. One girl has done great work, and earned an 88 for the 2nd quarter. The other ones have struggled to do much of anything. "Jerel" is one of these kids. His skills do not seem to be very strong, and he lacks confidence (doesn't like to read out loud), and hasn't done much work this year so far. He's polite, though, and his uncle tells me he loves baseball and will try out for the team this year, so I've been trying to keep an eye on him.

His dad, who was 53 years old, had a stroke a couple of weeks ago. It was in the midst of midterms and Inauguration and MLK Day, so we had several days off during that time. Last week, upon our return back to normal, I asked him how his father was.

"Dang, man, he passed away last Wednesday."

Oops, I sure felt stupid. He was already started on his quiz over chapters 19-23 of To Kill a Mockingbird, so I pulled him in the hallway to ask him how he was. He didn't make eye contact with me, but said he was really upset last week, but was starting to feel better. I asked him if he felt like he wanted to talk with someone, and he said he felt okay, and I told him not to take his quiz and instead to sit and read. Didn't know what else to do.

It was there, though, that I decided on a new rule for myself: if your father passes away during a quarter, I'm going to give you a passing grade for that quarter. This is two quarters in a row this young man is getting a bit of a gift grade from me, but I think it's called for. I also am hoping he is eligible, grades-wise, to try out for baseball next month. We'll see.

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