1.30.2010

We are not Intramural...

Here's an analogy and the most recent joke going around my department:

Some of our kids get upset when they don't get all A's (understandable). My students are not all "on-level". In fact, most of them are not. In English class, they are accessing high school content at modified levels based on their independent and instruction reading levels as determined by the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI). These reading levels range from pre-Primer through High School, and the teachers adapt their materials accordingly. Students that read at the pre-Primer level can still get a grade of A in English by doing the work and improving their reading and writing skills.

Math is a different beast. Students are learning high school math content. You cannot change the Algebra 1, Algebra 2, or Geometry standards. You can modify the methods used to teach the content. You can create guided notes with picture support for vocabulary and explanations written in language they can access based on their independent reading level. You cannot, though, teach 5th grade content. Factoring trinomials is factoring trinomials.

To break the news to students used to getting straight A's, my colleague uses a sports analogy. She explains to them that math content is the same in public schools as it is in our school. Their grade and understanding reflects how they are doing in comparison to what they know and understand about the standards. The same standards being used in public schools. The sports analogy is this: If you were grading athletic ability, an A would mean you're an expert, the best in the field...like a professional athlete or a gold medalist. A "B" is like a college athlete, C - on a high school sports team. A D or F would be like an intramural/club player, someone not quite good enough to make the team. Students know that they are below level in English, and this analogy helps them understand better their progress in math. We are not trying to bring our students down, but give them a realistic perspective of their achievements. The downside of going to a school where everyone is deaf, is that the only people to compare yourself with are others who are fighting the same language battle as you are.

The joke stemming from this analogy has nothing to do with our students: my colleague and I regularly tell ourselves (especially on rough days...) "We are not Intramural!" We are continuing to look for ways to improve our methods of teaching and assessing. We are trying to make high school math content accessible for our students. We are looking for ways to improve their retention and make math more applicable to their lives. If I get to a point where I don't care about those things and am just going through the motions - I have become intramural. I hope that never happens, but if it starts trending that way, I hope I leave teaching. The kids deserve better than that.

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