I'm feeling punchy today, as obviated by all the comments in the last entry. I'm going to take a break, though, to write about why. I mean, a big part of my mood had to do with the election results, particularly from Ohio, which is a state that borders my homestate - and it's the bordering state that we actually like. When I drive through the state on the way home, I feel like I'm home already. I have a lot of friends who are from there, too, so Obama's loss there was personally disappointing.
Then comes a barrage of crap I don't want to deal with.
Here's the scoop:
"Johnny" is a nice kid who is not a good student. I taught him as a 9th grader and he always struggled. He has an IEP for ADHD and something else and is constantly in motion. He is generally well-behaved and respectful, but, as a 9th grader, he was not a fun kid to teach.
As a sophomore, he made Varsity baseball and he was a pleasure to coach. He is one of those kids that, although he doesn't get that hard work will get him ahead in the classroom, does understand that it does happen on the athletic field, and he works really hard. He is immensably coachable even if he's not the greatest athlete or player in the world. Johnny also has a strong desire to be a leader. He leads the teams in exercises and constantly wants more to do, and constantly is saying things like "We've got to show more heart!" to his teammates. In short, he is a wonderful kid to coach.
So, yesterday, I discover that Johnny is ineligible. I was unsure of eligibility rules because, frankly, we started a new schedule a couple of years ago and I've never had anything close to an eligibility issue yet with my team in any year. I always just submit my names to the AD, and he checks to make sure they are academically eligible, and that's it. Well, I found out that two of my players are ineligible yesterday, including Johnny.
I pull the kids' records, hoping there is a mistake. One kid has two 59% grades for the semester in the first semester. That sucks. Johnny has a 59% grade and a 51% grade. This sucks, too.
I look closer at the grades, though. Johnny received the 59 in English class for the semester. In the first quarter (August-October), he received a 40%. After those grades came out, his mother pulled him from the football team halfway through the season and would not let him try out for wrestling. Johnny worked hard, and brought his grade up to a 76% in English for the 2nd quarter. He passed his midterm, barely, but all three grades averaged together to make a 59.
Still, that's how the cookie crumbles. I'm still upset about it, though, because (a) we are told not to give grades lower than a 50, which is something that I don't even always follow, but it's clearly the 40% in the first quarter that - perhaps unnaturally - lowered his grade so much for the semester; (b) the kid screwed up, bad, in the first quarter, but he suffered the consequences by being pulled from two teams; and (c) the kid suffered the consequences, but, according to the transcript, learned from his mistakes, bringing his grade up 36 points in the 2nd quarter, yet he still can't play a spring sport because of a first quarter screwup. (And, by the way, first quarter screw up had a lot to do with not completing summer reading, which is a completely other argument but still a valid one.)
So I talk with the kid, tell him he can come out once report cards come out and he's passing the classes, but he asks me if I think a letter to the teacher will do any good. I doubt it, and actually don't even think it's legal to change a grade after a certain number of days, but think it might be a good exercise for him to do anyway, so I tell him to do it. I say I'm not going to get involved in the situation at all otherwise, that it's between him and the teacher (who also happens to be a good friend of mine, but this is his battle). A little bit later in the evening, he is talking about Doris Lessing's The Fifth Child with another kid in the class, and they both have loved the book but thought the ending was weird. I tell them about the sequel to the book - Ben in the World - and say, "Hey, maybe Ms. Smith will offer that for extra credit over spring break."
So, fast-forward to today. Johnny has written Ms. Smith a two-page letter in which he begs for the one point on his transcript so he can play baseball. He (apparently, I haven't read it) uses baseball metaphors throughout, and also mentions the novel Ben in the World by name.
I get reamed, accused of putting him up to this (it was his idea, though I didn't dissuade), accused of telling him to put that novel name in there (untrue), accused of writing it with him (untrue), and accused of proofreading it (untrue).
Let me back up a second: for the last few years, many have accused the school of a shift from a focus on academics to a focus on sports. Sports are big in the building now. Particularly during football season, but also during basketball season, teachers are constantly asked about the progress of athletes. We are asked to give athletes extra credit, to hold special athlete coach classes, and to make certain other concessions that I won't get into.
Several members of the faculty are mad about this.
Today, I became the scapegoat for that. Someone actually made the accusation that I was just like them, just caring about winning and not the kids.
This couldn't be further from the truth. Johnny is not a star player and I genuinely care about the kid. Being a part of a team, seeing something through, being rewarded for hard work... these are all things that will be good for him. He is a good kid who has been punished enough for this mistake.
And I'm pissed off at the whole thing - at the kid for getting a freaking 59, at the rules which seemed to, in this case, not reward improvement, at the accusation that I don't care about the kids, at freaking Ohio and Texas. Saying I'm spitting mad is probably an understatement right now.
Luckily, three hours out on the muddy baseball field today helped. What a great day out there! And great lessons in the classroom, too... Ironically, coaching makes me a better teacher. I'm more careful with my time, more clear and confident with the students, and the minute-by-minute coaching plans I make for practices remind me that lessons should be that exact (luckily, if a player does something I don't expect, I can just yell, though, and when a student does the same, I've got to roll with the punches a bit more...)
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