“…I wish I could do 5th grade over again…” the student looks at me sadness in his eyes.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because then maybe I would have a chance at getting it.”
My heart breaks. This kid has tried so hard but the holes in knowledge just seem to grow as our curriculum picks up speed and we are asking them to do more, figure out more, understand deeper. The math test he holds in his hands with all of the circled problems, asking to be fixed, seems to be insurmountable at the moment. So I rack my brain, what else can we do? My team and I try so hard to reach every kid, to fill in the holes, to help them understand not just regurgitate and yet it is not enough. Some of our kids still don’t get math, some of our kids still don’t grow in areas where we have tried so hard.
And this isn’t the first year, every year we have these kids. These kids that show up with gaps already. These kids that work hard, even if they get a bit distracted, and yet what we are doing is simply not enough. The language we speak in math is above them and no matter how much we try with smaller groups and remediation it doesn’t catch them up. So we keep on pushing, hoping that something clicks and then pass them on to the next year’s teachers hoping that perhaps they have the solution.
We tend to feel successful in our math instruction because most of our kids get it. Most of our kids do well on tests. Most of our kids grow a lot. But is “most” enough anymore? Can we really say we are successful if all the kids are not getting it? Is it okay to base success on the 95% that do and just live with the 5% that don’t. I don’t think it is anymore, but I don’t know how to help them. Yet. How do we reach those kids with their gaping holes in a day that is already chock full of new? How do we build up their confidence? How do we make the curriculum accessible?
I hope you have some ideas to share.
So we can do two things. We can say that is just how it is. That every year some kids will not grow as much as they should. That we tried our hardest and hopefully some of it stuck even though we know it was not enough. After all, most of our kids do just fine with the curriculum, so what are a few loses? Or we can do as my team does. Get to gether and try to come up with a new plan. Try again. Try to reach every kid.