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Old 10-11-2012, 11:49 AM   #1
Mickey'snewestfan
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Middle School Teachers -- opinions needed UPDATE, new question post 73

I have a meeting with my son's 8th grade English teacher tomorrow, and before I go in, I want a sense of whether I'm being unreasonable.

I am going to note that I work in an urban middle school. What I'm describing wouldn't fly in our school where we expect kids to have minimal support at home, but I wonder if it's more acceptable in an affluent suburban school where they do assume support at home.

My 8th grader currently has a D in 8th grade honors English. This is despite getting A's and B's in 6th and 7th, lots of time studying, multiple appointments after school with the teacher etc . . . So I'm concerned. Part of my concern is that while I'm willing, eager even, to help him I feel like I don't have any idea what to do. Even if I hired a tutor, I wouldn't know what to tell the tutor to review with him.

1) My child doesn't seem to know when there will be tests or what will be on them. He says the class is loud and it's hard to hear. He says that nothing about tests is written on the board for them to copy down, and when we look on the online system there's little to nothing there. As a result
-- He's failed one test on the novel they're reading because he didn't know it was coming and thus didn't study.
-- He failed another test that was described as being on "participles" on the online system. He didn't know what a participle was, and didn't have any notes or worksheets explaining them, so we worked for hours together with online resources. However, 1/2 the test turned out to be on gerunds instead, which we hadn't studied at all.
-- Tomorrow he has another test, I think. I say I think because last week he came home on Thursday panicked. He said he had a summative test on Friday and he didn't know how to study for it. I talked him down, we looked through his notes and the website and there was nothing. I asked him -- is it on the novel you're reading? The grammar you're studying? Narrative writing skills which you've covered? He didn't have a clue. We reviewed what was in his notebook and he went off and came back to tell me "Oh, it's not today it must be next Friday". Now, it's Thursday again, and we still don't know anything about the test.

2) There seems to be very little written information available. As I said, my kid usually studies hard to get decent grades. It doesn't come easily to him, but in this class there's very little to study or refer to. For example, they had to write a review of a product. They turned in their rough drafts, and I decided not to help him with the initial draft. Well, sure enough his came back with the feedback "this isn't a review". I read it and agreed, but when I asked him what a review was, he didn't have a clue. I then asked him for the rubric for the assignment, or the graphic organizers on the parts of a good review, or the sample reviews they had read in class, he couldn't come up with anything. Finally I found a link on the school website to a graphic organizer we could use, and I pulled up reviews online for him to read and we started from there.

3) It's week 6 of the year. We're a little more than halfway through the first quarter. The class is supposedly focused on writing and they've done 2 big writing assignments. Other than the first draft of the Review that wasn't a Review, my kid has received no written feedback on his assignments. Ordinarily, we'd look over the feedback on the first assignment, make sure he understood it, maybe have him take it in to talk about the teacher (not "why did I get this grade, but can you teach me so I do it right next time?"), but we haven't been able to do any of that.

So, am I being unreasonable? Like I said, I work in an urban environment. We give our kids everything they need for assignments. If there's a graphic organizer, then we print it out and hand it out, rather than posting it online and figuring they'll find it. If there's a test on something, there are hand outs or guided notes or a study guide so that kids can study on their own. We give back papers promptly and go over the feedback with the kids so their next paper will be better.

Last edited by Mickey'snewestfan; 10-16-2012 at 10:07 AM.
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Old 10-11-2012, 11:59 AM   #2
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What has the teacher said when HE has asked them any of these questions? Do they not answer him when he asks anything in class?

I'm confused if he thought there was a test last Friday and there wasn't what did the teacher say when he asked when it was and what was on it?

My DS is in 8th grade and he never comes home with a study guide for tests!
I have no idea what you mean by a graphic organizer? They are expected by 8th grade to know how to organize their writing and their work.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:10 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey'snewestfan View Post
I have a meeting with my son's 8th grade English teacher tomorrow, and before I go in, I want a sense of whether I'm being unreasonable.

I am going to note that I work in an urban middle school. What I'm describing wouldn't fly in our school where we expect kids to have minimal support at home, but I wonder if it's more acceptable in an affluent suburban school where they do assume support at home.

My 8th grader currently has a D in 8th grade honors English. This is despite getting A's and B's in 6th and 7th, lots of time studying, multiple appointments after school with the teacher etc . . . So I'm concerned. Part of my concern is that while I'm willing, eager even, to help him I feel like I don't have any idea what to do. Even if I hired a tutor, I wouldn't know what to tell the tutor to review with him.

1) My child doesn't seem to know when there will be tests or what will be on them. He says the class is loud and it's hard to hear. He says that nothing about tests is written on the board for them to copy down, and when we look on the online system there's little to nothing there. As a result
-- He's failed one test on the novel they're reading because he didn't know it was coming and thus didn't study.
-- He failed another test that was described as being on "participles" on the online system. He didn't know what a participle was, and didn't have any notes or worksheets explaining them, so we worked for hours together with online resources. However, 1/2 the test turned out to be on gerunds instead, which we hadn't studied at all.
-- Tomorrow he has another test, I think. I say I think because last week he came home on Thursday panicked. He said he had a summative test on Friday and he didn't know how to study for it. I talked him down, we looked through his notes and the website and there was nothing. I asked him -- is it on the novel you're reading? The grammar you're studying? Narrative writing skills which you've covered? He didn't have a clue. We reviewed what was in his notebook and he went off and came back to tell me "Oh, it's not today it must be next Friday". Now, it's Thursday again, and we still don't know anything about the test.

2) There seems to be very little written information available. As I said, my kid usually studies hard to get decent grades. It doesn't come easily to him, but in this class there's very little to study or refer to. For example, they had to write a review of a product. They turned in their rough drafts, and I decided not to help him with the initial draft. Well, sure enough his came back with the feedback "this isn't a review". I read it and agreed, but when I asked him what a review was, he didn't have a clue. I then asked him for the rubric for the assignment, or the graphic organizers on the parts of a good review, or the sample reviews they had read in class, he couldn't come up with anything. Finally I found a link on the school website to a graphic organizer we could use, and I pulled up reviews online for him to read and we started from there.

3) It's week 6 of the year. We're a little more than halfway through the first quarter. The class is supposedly focused on writing and they've done 2 big writing assignments. Other than the first draft of the Review that wasn't a Review, my kid has received no written feedback on his assignments. Ordinarily, we'd look over the feedback on the first assignment, make sure he understood it, maybe have him take it in to talk about the teacher (not "why did I get this grade, but can you teach me so I do it right next time?"), but we haven't been able to do any of that.

So, am I being unreasonable? Like I said, I work in an urban environment. We give our kids everything they need for assignments. If there's a graphic organizer, then we print it out and hand it out, rather than posting it online and figuring they'll find it. If there's a test on something, there are hand outs or guided notes or a study guide so that kids can study on their own. We give back papers promptly and go over the feedback with the kids so their next paper will be better.
I would be concerned, too.

Both my 6th grader and high schooler (sophomore) come home with study guides for tests. There should be *some* type of feedback on assignments, otherwise, how do they know how to improve or what they're doing right?

I don't think your concerns are unreasonable at all, but I'd also make sure you didn't come in to the meeting with a confrontational attitude. I'm not saying you will, but some parents may.

Let the teacher know the concerns your son had (he can't hear instructions, not having things written on the board, etc) and see what the teacher's response is.

Good luck.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:15 PM   #4
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I have middle schoolers in a nice suburban area and this sounds like an teacher who is more verbal oriented or not well trained. However, first I would first ask the teacher if they in fact, do not have written directions or worksheets. It seems very odd that he would be so unaware of what's going on in class but I'd want to get the teacher's side first. Either he is not getting it and missing things in class or the teacher is doing a poor job of communicating and teaching what she/he plans to assess.

My kids regularly have worksheets, study guides, and graphic organizers. I am also able to go online anytime for up to date (within a week or so) grade progress. They are given planners and expected to write down assignments. DS (6th grade) learned his lesson early on and struggles with organization.

DD's 7th grade French teacher just sent out an email that DD was one of several students not to do well on a quiz and gave directions how she can re-take & get help. We get lots of communication from the school and I can easily reach their teachers anytime and they reply within a day. Have you been in contact or has your DS asked questions in class?

I know my DS can be totally lost if he doesn't have things in writing so I can imagine how frustrating this is. Good luck & I'd definitely be in touch with his teacher to see what's really going on and then how you can help him. I'd also consider switching him if the teacher doesn't seem effective.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:17 PM   #5
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Well, the first questions I would ask my child is whether other kids in the class were having the same kinds of trouble, too.

Does your son use a planner?
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:18 PM   #6
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I was a teacher for many years, so I know to go in with respect, and to listen before I speak. On the other hand, because I'm a special educator, and my current job involves coaching middle school teachers on how to work with specific kids, my mind keeps jumping to solutions (e.g. post the dates and subject of tests on the online calendar like every other teacher, and return his emails when he asks for clarification), so I know to be careful to come in as though I know his job better than he does.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:18 PM   #7
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How are the other kids doing in the class? Are they all doing poorly and are just as confused? Is the teacher new? My dd has gotten teachers that just don't want to explain much and do not hand out study guides.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mickeyboat View Post
Well, the first questions I would ask my child is whether other kids in the class were having the same kinds of trouble, too.

Does your son use a planner?
I will ask that too. I do know that the entire class is retaking the participles/gerund test today because more than 1/2 failed. I also know that he came home and told me that he had spent lunch time "tutoring" some his classmates on their parts of speech so they could pass the retest on that test. This is a little ironic since he failed the first test, got a D on the retest, and then a B on the second retest. Apparently his "tutees" are on their fourth retest.

The school gives them a planner, but there haven't been assignments to copy down for this class. In the past, he hasn't had an issue with knowing about assignments so I haven't been in the habit of reviewing the planner.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:25 PM   #9
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You didn't answer what the teacher has said to your DS?

In 8th grade he should be the first person to talk to his teacher.

Did they refuse to tell your DS what was going to be on the test when he asked? Does he ask when he doesn't know something?
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:30 PM   #10
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I don't think you're being unreasonable.

I received an email from one of my sons teachers last week about Parent-Teacher conferences, and immediately thought of the people on this discussion board who always say how the parents need to stay out of it. He is a Sophomore.

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Old 10-11-2012, 12:32 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hannathy View Post
You didn't answer what the teacher has said to your DS?

In 8th grade he should be the first person to talk to his teacher.

Did they refuse to tell your DS what was going to be on the test when he asked? Does he ask when he doesn't know something?
He says that he asked, and didn't get an answer, but he's a pretty shy kid so I'm not sure how well he expressed his question. I'm not going to assume my kid's retelling is accurate there, so I suggested that he put the question in an email. He did so, writing it through the school's online system which meant that the email and reply came to my email. The teacher never replied.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:40 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey'snewestfan View Post
I have a meeting with my son's 8th grade English teacher tomorrow, and before I go in, I want a sense of whether I'm being unreasonable.

I am going to note that I work in an urban middle school. What I'm describing wouldn't fly in our school where we expect kids to have minimal support at home, but I wonder if it's more acceptable in an affluent suburban school where they do assume support at home.

My 8th grader currently has a D in 8th grade honors English. This is despite getting A's and B's in 6th and 7th, lots of time studying, multiple appointments after school with the teacher etc . . . So I'm concerned. Part of my concern is that while I'm willing, eager even, to help him I feel like I don't have any idea what to do. Even if I hired a tutor, I wouldn't know what to tell the tutor to review with him.

1) My child doesn't seem to know when there will be tests or what will be on them. He says the class is loud and it's hard to hear. He says that nothing about tests is written on the board for them to copy down, and when we look on the online system there's little to nothing there. As a result
-- He's failed one test on the novel they're reading because he didn't know it was coming and thus didn't study. -- He failed another test that was described as being on "participles" on the online system. He didn't know what a participle was, and didn't have any notes or worksheets explaining them, so we worked for hours together with online resources. However, 1/2 the test turned out to be on gerunds instead, which we hadn't studied at all. -- Tomorrow he has another test, I think. I say I think because last week he came home on Thursday panicked. He said he had a summative test on Friday and he didn't know how to study for it. I talked him down, we looked through his notes and the website and there was nothing. I asked him -- is it on the novel you're reading? The grammar you're studying? Narrative writing skills which you've covered? He didn't have a clue. We reviewed what was in his notebook and he went off and came back to tell me "Oh, it's not today it must be next Friday". Now, it's Thursday again, and we still don't know anything about the test.

2) There seems to be very little written information available. As I said, my kid usually studies hard to get decent grades. It doesn't come easily to him, but in this class there's very little to study or refer to. For example, they had to write a review of a product. They turned in their rough drafts, and I decided not to help him with the initial draft. Well, sure enough his came back with the feedback "this isn't a review". I read it and agreed, but when I asked him what a review was, he didn't have a clue. I then asked him for the rubric for the assignment, or the graphic organizers on the parts of a good review, or the sample reviews they had read in class, he couldn't come up with anything. Finally I found a link on the school website to a graphic organizer we could use, and I pulled up reviews online for him to read and we started from there.

3) It's week 6 of the year. We're a little more than halfway through the first quarter. The class is supposedly focused on writing and they've done 2 big writing assignments. Other than the first draft of the Review that wasn't a Review, my kid has received no written feedback on his assignments. Ordinarily, we'd look over the feedback on the first assignment, make sure he understood it, maybe have him take it in to talk about the teacher (not "why did I get this grade, but can you teach me so I do it right next time?"), but we haven't been able to do any of that.

So, am I being unreasonable? Like I said, I work in an urban environment. We give our kids everything they need for assignments. If there's a graphic organizer, then we print it out and hand it out, rather than posting it online and figuring they'll find it. If there's a test on something, there are hand outs or guided notes or a study guide so that kids can study on their own. We give back papers promptly and go over the feedback with the kids so their next paper will be better.
Here is my two cents. The bolding is mine....

Urban or affluent suburban should not matter. He is in an Honors class. I think, in general, teachers expect those in honors classes to be more independent and not need as much hand holding or writing on the board. Sounds like maybe this honors class may be too difficult for him.
In 8th grade, they are also trying to prepare the students for high school so are trying to create more indepenent learners. My DD has yet to receive a study guide. They will get the subject of the test and it is up to them to re-read, study notes, assignments etc to prepare themselves for the test.

What did the teacher say when he approached the matter with him/her? If my DD (4th grade) doesn't understand something; I expect her to approach the teacher. If she has approached the teacher and was unsuccessful then I may get involved.

I would approach the meeting more as what can you do to help your son prepare better for this class rather than the teacher not teaching properly, which is what your post "sounds" like.

Good luck.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:44 PM   #13
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Sounds like a very disorganized class. My daughter has one too. When she tried to ask a question, the teacher would look away and talk to someone else, several times. Eventually, the kids give up.

I think you are on the right track with the meeting and coming up with some kind of plan that will address these issues. I am sure your son is not the only one having these problems and the entire class will benefit to having a more structured class.

A planner is only good if the class is told what the assignments and deadlines are and told clearly. It doesn't sound like this teacher is doing this.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:51 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey'snewestfan

He says that he asked, and didn't get an answer, but he's a pretty shy kid so I'm not sure how well he expressed his question. I'm not going to assume my kid's retelling is accurate there, so I suggested that he put the question in an email. He did so, writing it through the school's online system which meant that the email and reply came to my email. The teacher never replied.
I would be concerned too. I'm not sure what's going on, but something here sounds fishy.

It's really unusual a child wouldn't know what assessment was even about, since teachers usually cover the topic in class, and stress that there IS a test on Friday- or whatever day.

I think it's important you get written help regarding the tests. Perhaps a sheet confirming there's a test, what it is about and what to revise.

An 8th grader should really be able to keep track of these things - I would urge you to get him to write the tests down in his planner.

I really find it odd the teacher wouldn't do this. It seems very unusual to casually tell the kids they have a test- but somehow what it is about gets lost somewhere.
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Old 10-11-2012, 12:55 PM   #15
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Urban or affluent suburban should not matter. He is in an Honors class. I think, in general, teachers expect those in honors classes to be more independent and not need as much hand holding or writing on the board. Sounds like maybe this honors class may be too difficult for him.
I guess I have a hard time believing that last year my kid was capable of honors level work, and this year he suddenly isn't.

To give you a sense, my kid is in honor's history. It's not uncommon for me to come home from work, and ask "how's homework?" I hear "We've got a test on Thursday, and so I just reviewed my notes and handouts. I've got one specific thing I don't understand, can you help me find some online resources?" or in honor's science "Everytying's done, except I've got a test tomorrow, here are the flashcards I made of the terms, can you help me review them?" in those subjects he's got the information he needs to make a plan, and while he might need my help with specific parts, he's mostly independent. In addition, I feel as though the help I'm giving him is moving him from a B to an A or a C to a B, not teaching the material from the beginning.

In contrast in English, he doesn't know where to start. At first I was impatient with him, saying did you take initiative? Did you ask a friend? Did you look online? Did you email the teacher? Did you review your past assignments? But as the quarter goes on, I can see that he's trying those strategies without success.

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My DD has yet to receive a study guide. They will get the subject of the test and it is up to them to re-read, study notes, assignments etc to prepare themselves for the test.
A study guide is one example of a way a teacher would support this. If my child had an accurate description of what would be on the test, something to reread, or a returned assignment I'd be thrilled. We have none of those things.

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What did the teacher say when he approached the matter with him/her? If my DD (4th grade) doesn't understand something; I expect her to approach the teacher. If she has approached the teacher and was unsuccessful then I may get involved.
If you see my post above, he's tried approaching the teacher several times. He's also taken every opportunity presented for afterschool help, retakes etc . . .
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