Friday, October 30, 2009

Sham WOW

The Setting:

Third hour resource class. For the unknowing, resource is a study hall type class for the LD students. They can receive assistance on homework and/or work on subject areas that need strengthening. Wednesday was an activity day so the students did not have homework, and since it was the last day of a short week (teacher's convention on Thursday/Friday) they were wound up.

The Characters:

Seven 6th and 7th graders. Allen (names are changed) is autistic, David is CD or LD, Vince has a 70 IQ, Katie and the rest are high functioning but with reading difficulties. Jeramie, the teacher, is also the varsity football coach, and the team had won the first playoff game the previous evening. I am also in the room. At the beginning of class Allen and David are writing on an eraser board, wiping off what is written and shouting "Sham Wow."

The Plot:

The students are wound up and have no homework. The teacher/coach wants to watch the film of the game. The kids are more than eager to watch any kind of video so that is what we do. The following is the conversation during the video. (some of the coach's statements are combined)

J: Watch this play. The running back is great.
K: Mr. Korth, is there a guy named Jack on the team?
J: What's his last name?
K: I don't know. But I know a guy named Jack who plays football.
Me: What grade is the quarterback in?
J: A junior. There is only one senior on the team.
K: Why are there so many fat guys on the team?
J. is very engrossed in the video and doesn't hear the question.
K: Mr. Korth, why are there so many fat guys on the team?
Me: They're not really fat, K. (even though I think they are)
J: They are not fat, they are big. Football is a great game because there is something for everyone -- big, small, medium.
D: Are the Packers winning?
V: It's not the Packers.
J: (to me) What are they doing? What's with the Sham Wow?
Me: They were doing it when I got in the room. Maybe they're dressing up as Billy Mays for Halloween.
J: There I am trying to get the ref's attention to call a time out, but I can't get him to look at me. I even run onto the field.
K: What is that on your head, Mr. Korth?
J: Headphones.

Okay, it was funnier when in the room listening to it all. The Sham Wow was so darn funny and those two were having a great time entertaining themselves and no one seemed affected by them. Maybe I'll start writing down some of the conversations I overhear during class times.....6th graders are still pretty uninhibited and silly. If I overhear anything good I'll post it here.

And while some might frown at the watching of a football video during class time, the kids enjoyed it and it kept them occupied. Another classroom had shown an animated movie the day prior and I know only too well how nuts irregular school days can be.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


For your consideration:

A 6th grader has an IQ of 70, reads at a second grade level, and struggles to do subtraction.

How important is it that this student learn longitude and latitude, know the taxonomy of animals, describe the differences in an island and an archipelago, or the write the definition of an autotroph?

This real life 6th grader sits in regular classrooms and is expected to pay attention, do the homework, and take the tests. However, he does not have the ability to comprehend much of the information. The result is a frustrated 12 year old with low self esteem who is not learning much of anything. (The equivalent in my world would be sitting me in a calculus class, followed by quantum physics with a dose of organic chemistry thrown in.) Would it not be better to spend the time teaching him to read and do basic math while focusing his energies on life skills?

Even with all the differentiation, individualized educational plans, and learning accommodations (having tests read, extending testing times), such children are not getting what they need. Within the middle school schedule there is no time to teach basic reading and math. So, we send this boy and others like him through the regular schedule whether he can learn from it or not and then wonder why he shuts down. This student is not being taught ..... he's being shuffled through a system that doesn't know what to do with him, doesn't have the resources to help him, and isn't in a hurry to change.

(The above is not an indictment of the teachers who work with him and who are doing their best within an ineffective educational system. It is the system as a whole that is antiquated and in dire need of an overhaul.)