Saturday, July 9, 2011

Summer School - Day Five - Who Am I Teaching?

The vice-principal for summer school brought a new student to my class two days ago. Then he asked to talk to me in the hallway. He asked me to let him know if this student ever left the class. Apparently this student has gang connections and the administrative team wants to keep an eye on his activity at the school.

This got me thinking about how much we know (or don't know) about our students. Does this information colour the way I view this child? Am I biased now? Am I less likely to give this kid a break? Am I looking for him to mess up? Will I be more strict and less forgiving?

Or will I go the other way? Will I view him as a child from a broken home with a troubled past? Will I give him second chances? Will I attempt to respond to him in a way that is different than how most adults probably respond?

Overall, I try to treat all my students the same. I have the same high expectations for behaviour, effort and manners. Discipline and consequences are clearly explained and are consistent for all students.

But, I admit I find myself being tougher on this student than the others. I am quicker to apply consequences because I don't want escalating behaviour. I also find myself more lenient towards the girl who showed up the first day with her mother who said, "Just try your best." They both looked like passing the course was already hopeless.

Is it inevitable that I will treat some students differently? Is it inconsistent? Is it unfair? Or is it OK? Is it necessary even? How do I avoid inconsistency while still treating each student as an individual?


  1. I think one thing that helps me answer some of your questions here is a comment from one of my education teachers, "Fair isn't equal, it's giving each person what they need to succeed." Allowing someone with dyslexia more time to take a test than at "normal" student isn't equal, but it's fair.

  2. @Scott Thomas

    I can completely agree with your quote. Differentiated learning is all about "giving each person what they need to succeed." I have no problem with creating unequal but fair learning experiences for my diverse students.

    However, it becomes a little more cloudy when talking about behaviour. Most students understand when little Jimmy gets more time or writes the test in the Learning Support Room. But when he does not get detention for the same offence... that's hard to swallow. And I can't explain that Jimmy gets special treatment because he was up all night with his baby sister crying since his mom was strung out or walking the streets.

    This is an extreme example but it creeps up on me in more subtle ways too.

  3. I had a similar experience teaching summer school last year. A student registered late, released on probation for putting another another student in a coma (grade 9!). Conditions of probation included completing summer school. Our school had a 3 strikes policy for behavior, attendance and tardiness. Very shortly this student was on his last strike. Suddenly my decision on a final strike was the only thing keeping him out of juvy (or so it felt). It was very stressful as I tried to keep my revulsion from his actions from clouding my judgement, to the point I almost wished I hadn't been told.