Nitit, Pasavee, & Me

My math co-teacher does a lot more work than some of us other teachers. He is solely responsible for having created the program for our report cards and for the constant maintenance. The constant maintenance is not a reflection of a poorly made program; rather it is because teachers are always changing how they want the format, what they want the report cards to include, etc. Every change requires quite a bit of work, and any that include grading alterations require him to change some formulas to calculate GPA correctly. (I should probably devote a post to giving first-graders a GPA…).

Anyway, all this extra work made him not want to teach his remedial grade 8 math class. He didn’t realize that asking to be removed from that position would have such great effect on my teaching schedule. His intention was not to give me more work; he assumed that a middle or high school teacher would teach these grade 8 students.

Well, he was wrong! One morning I came in to work to find a new schedule on my desk. Suddenly, I was no longer an art teacher at all and would be teaching two grade 8 math students once a day. Yes, this remedial math “class” has only two students — Nitit and Pasawee. There is no way for me to get out of this, though I argued that I am not an 8th grade math teacher. It turns out…I am now.

Because I was so sad to give up all my art classes, I discussed with the main art teacher, as well as a new one who just got here, the possibility of keeping one of the three grade levels I was teaching. Luckily, both were happy to let me keep grade 2. While I’m happy to have that class, I’m still disappointed that all the planning I did for the other two classes will essentially go to waste.

The grade 8 boys I’m spending five hours a week with now are two tough cookies. Sadly, kids in the “ii” (I don’t know what that stands for) program (and I use that word extremely loosely) often have learning disabilities or processing disorders or even just a low level of English, but are always considered stupid, lazy, and/or unteachable. 

I think that my taking over this class will be a blessing for both me and for Nitit and Pasawee. I would like to learn how to better serve low-achieving students, and they absolutely deserve a teacher who respects them and genuinely wants to teach them. So despite my chagrin over losing my art classes, I’m putting on a happy face for two boys who are used to teachers being irritated by their lack of skill or annoyed with their lack of passion for school. (Though of course it’s likely these very teachers who have caused their dispassion.)

Nitit is very easily distracted by mosquitoes, needing to use the restroom, dull pencils, Pasawee’s presence, the snacks I bring, and the list goes on. They both say “Oy” and sit back in their chairs, away from their work, when it gets to be even just slightly challenging for them. They’re not that far behind grade level; it’s just that their learning styles don’t fit in with what this school expects out of everyone. 

Already this week, they’ve set goals, shown more effort than last week, and have even cracked a few smiles. My friend and fellow CRA alum, Jorey, posted a link on Facebook to a free online course through Stanford University that is all about learning how people learn math. I look forward to taking the course and learning how to help these kids the best I can. It’s a great opportunity for me to brush up on my algebra skills, but mostly I am glad to be taking over an ii class. I’m not a special educator, but I at least know not to call these boys idiots (because they’re not).

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