The last weeks of the school year bring with it a myriad of year-end activities. But not all of them are celebratory like award ceremonies, graduations, moving-up ceremonies, or senior trips. This is also the time when teachers have to look at the yearly progress of all of their students and determine who moves on and who stays behind.
There are guidelines for this sort of decision. Out of 6 or 9 grading periods, how many of them did the student fail? Did you give a list of students in danger of failing to the guidance counselor as requested back in March? Did you try alternative ways to get this student to be successful? Did you document those attempts? Did you contact parents throughout the process? Did you document those contacts? Does the student know he or she is in danger of failing? Did you document that he or she knows?
And keep in mind that principals and school districts do NOT want retentions on their books. As teachers, we are strongly "encouraged" to pass a child even if on paper it looks like they've failed. There's a lot of pressure to keep graduation rates high and retention rates low. School grades are tied to their promotion rates.
So believe me when I tell you that if a teacher puts your child's name on the retention list or the summer school list, it was their last resort and something they felt they had absolutely no other choice but to do.
The hard part, for most of us, is calling parents to tell them their child has failed and in order for him or her to be promoted to the next grade they must go to summer school. It's interesting because even though we've called parents, had conferences about student progress, and they've seen their child's report cards, they are almost always in shock and in a state of disbelief and denial when we call about retaining their child.
Somehow we made a mistake, they say. Somehow we have it in for their kid, they accuse. Somehow it is our fault, they blame.
I have evidence to the contrary but it doesn't seem to matter.
Sometimes we believe that things will just all work out in the end, without us doing anything. We believe it is someone else's responsibility, when it is our own. Parents and teachers are involved in a delicate dance. We always seem to step on each other's feet. This seems to happen when both parties want to lead.
So when we make or you receive a difficult phone call about your child's school performance, set aside the pride that fuels your denial and come together for the sake of the student. After all, this is his one shot at not being left behind.