Top 10: Student Excuses

top10B#10: “It is too hard.”  I’ve been surprised by the growing number of very bright and otherwise successful students that are afraid of failure. When a task is too hard they want to quit or get out of the class. Often the reason stated is that a low grade will have a negative impact on their GPA. My philosophy has always been any student who wanted to pass and was willing to work for it would. This has meant that I have helped students on my own time, given extra projects or tutoring. All the student had to do was either request help or respond to my offer to help them through the class.  Part of life is learning to handle failure and overcome obstacles. Students should be commended for taking difficult tasks and not allowed to avoid them.

#9: “It isn’t fair to give us a quiz over the reading assignment.”  I found that many students believed reading assignments were optional therefore refused to do them.

#8: “It is the teacher’s fault I’m failing. My being late to class, not listening and refusing to work has nothing to do with it.” In a parent-teacher conference the mother actually wanted me to sign a waiver saying I was unable to teach her daughter. The waiver basically stated I didn’t know how to teach. The purpose of the waiver was to allow her daughter to take the class on-line for free. Yep, that’s right instead of backing the teacher  or addressing her daughter’s behavior the mom blamed me.

#7: “What do you mean it is wrong I followed the picture in the book?” I thought a computer applications course that used Microsoft Office. The text included very detailed instructions on how to complete the assignments as well as illustrations. I always had students who just looked at the pictures instead of reading the instructions. They just didn’t want to read.

#6: “My arms are too long” This one  actually came from a friend who teaches on the secondary level.  He had a student tell him that he couldn’t work because his arms were to long for the desk. The desk was a standard chair/desk combo found in many high schools and colleges. No, the student isn’t a budding basketball star. He is around 6 feet or maybe a little less.

#5: “It was the teachers fault I got written up for cheating and failed the test.” I was tired of my students cheating on tests so I had the computer generate a different form for each student. During the test a couple of students asked why they had a different test from their neighbors. After the test one of the students asked if they each had a different test. It was the same student who noticed during the test there were different form,s asked if this was because I thought they were cheating. This caused several of the students to become upset that I was framing them for cheating. Well, one budding rocket scientist went home and told his mother I accused him of cheating and framed him for it.  In the parent conference, he told his mom this was unfair because he wrote down the same answers as X so he should have gotten the same grade.

#4: “Student: I didn’t know the project counted 1/3 of my grade or when it was due.”

Me: It was listed on the class syllabus, the monthly assignment sheet, on the project form you turned in at the beginning of the grading period and on the assignment board in class.
Parent: Well my child can’t remember assignments and I didn’t know about the assignment either.
Me:  I have your signature on the syllabus, monthly assignment sheet and project form.
Parent: You should communicate deadlines and expectations better.

 #3: “Unlike you I have a life and can’t be expected to do homework or show up to school on time.”  The student was trying to convince me to give a passing grade in a computer art class. The student begin my telling me how embarrassing it would be to fail an art class. After listening to the student’s begging and sob story I offered a solution. The student could come in after school for 2 weeks plus complete a research paper at home.  It was funny how fast the student’s attitude changed from desperation to indignant that I would expect the student to work for the grade.

#2: “I have ADHD and forgot to take my medicine.” My response: Neither did I go sit down and work. ADHD is real and it is not an acceptable excuse for poor behavior. Medicine is one tool for controlling ADHD. The secret for ADHD is to find the proper balance and tools to control it. Under control ADHD can be a secret weapon to go a little farther and get more things done.

#1:  “I can’t learn because I’m too dumb. I have SLD.”  SLD means specific learning disability.  Working in adult education it is really painful to see adults who have bought in to the lie that somehow a learning disability makes them unable to succeed. Many feel that because learning is hard they are just plain dumb. Like me others have had teachers tell them they were stupid. To be learning disabled one must have an average or higher IQ. Approximately 1/3 of individuals with a learning disability are in the gifted range. A learning disability means you have to learn differently.

Boys and Girls Learn Differently

frusboy.jpgIt really should not be surprising that boys and girls learn differently after all boys and girls are different. However there is a growing movement supporting single sex education. Dr. Leonard Sax, an outspoken support of single sex education and the author of Why Gender Matters: What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About the Emerging Science of Sex Differences begin investigating the differences between the way boys and girls learn after one of his patients made remarkable progress educationally after being enrolled in an all boys school.

In his book Sax cites numerous between the learning styles of boys and girls including the emotional and cognitive difference between boys and girls. Another interesting difference between the learning patterns of boys and girls was discovered by Japanese researchers is found art styles. Boys draw action, use fewer colors and prefer gray, blue, sliver and black. In contrast girls use 10 or more colors and prefer warm colors. The subject of girls’ art tends to be people, pets, flowers or other still life. Boys also need more hands on instruction than girl.

I have taught in single-sex classrooms as well as traditional classrooms. In some cases, I believe that single-sex classrooms may be better, particularly for students in middle school. The students in the single-sex classrooms seemed to do better than traditional classes. The atmosphere and environment of the class was quite different in the boys’ class and the girls’ class. Both classes seemed able to concert on learning more than socialization. Also, my teaching styles were quite different for the each class. I was able to tailor class projects and assignments towards the interest of each group. While, I am not totally convinced that the secret to academic success lies within single-sex classes over co-ed classes, I do find Sax’s research intriguing.

Source: NY Times

Sports Scholarships Are the Ticket to a College Education? Wrong!

sports.jpgFor many students athletic scholarships are viewed as the ticket to a bright future. Many parents sacrifice a lot in an effort to help their promising young athlete will be able to compete on the next level. Many parents have an unrealistic expectation that every good athlete will get a full ride and somehow their child will beat the odds.

Many parents and athletes believe that that there are large numbers of full-scholarships available for top athletes. That just is not the case. Consider that there 1 college scholarship for every 145 boys playing high school soccer. NCAA Division I football teams are limited to 85 full scholarships while soccer times are limited to 9.9 full scholarships. That is the total number of scholarships allowed per year. The scholarships available for incoming freshmen are greatly dependent upon the number of seniors leaving. Most teams split scholarships between several students.

Another common misconception is that scholarships are given for 4 years and that just isn’t the case. Most scholarships are given annually and may be revoked due to lack of academic or athletic performance.

Many good athletes do not even make the team much less get any form of scholarship. This may be due to lack of exposure or having an off day on the day the scouts came. The attitude of the parents also contributes to students loosing scholarships. Many parents have an unrealistic expectation that every good athlete will get a full ride. Some parents are unwilling to accept anything less than a full-ride.

The real money for scholarships lies with academic scholarships. Academic scholarships are limited by funds available rather than by quota.

Sports can play an important part in the development of teens. However it is important not to loose focus of the big picture. Very few teen athletes will play beyond the high school level much less in the pros. Injuries must be considered as well. It is better to develop a well-rounded student than focus on one particular area.

Source: NY Times

Solution to High Gas Price

High school senior Brad Walker was found a solution to high gass prices.High school senior Brad Walker from Rockwood, TN has found a solution to high gas prices. He has decided to ride his horse, Pumpkin, to school. It takes him about 45 minutes to make the four mile trek from his home to school. The cost is about $1 a day. His “green” plan may come to an end due to an increased demand for coral space. More students are wanting to ride horses to school unfortunately the school’s coral only holds one horse.

Surprisingly, riding a horse is not considered a totally green from of transportation because horse droppings are considered illegal emissions.

I think it is a great idea and I hope Walker is able to continue riding Pumpkin. He is certainly thinking outside the box or maybe it is outside the coral.


Stack of BooksRead an interesting op-ed piece about the high drop out rate in the United States. According to this piece, the U.S. high school system is out of date and does not prepare students for life. Students graduate without basic skills and even basic knowledge of historical facts. It is one more piece attacking our public education.

As an educator who has taught in both public and private schools, I am well aware that there are many problems with our educational system. However, studies comparing U.S. students to the world often fail to consider that in we educate everyone. For the most part students channeled into college prep and vocational tracts. Part of the “American Dream” is that if a student is willing to work hard enough they can achieve a college education no matter regardless of test results. Instead of college, being for the elite is almost we have a sense of entitlement regarding higher education.

The obsession with test scores in my opinion has greatly harmed our educational system. In an effort to prepare students for the almighty tests elements of the curriculum deemed not essential has been jettisoned. In many cases, education consists of teaching to the test. That does not prepare students for anything beyond a test. In some cases, it is possible to do well on the tests without gaining basic skills. Several years ago the basic skills test in Texas for third graders focused on only on solving word problems in math. Students were to select the operation but not actually solve the problems. In fact in training for teachers we were instructed to discourage students from solving the problems because it slowed them down on the tests.

While No Child Left Behind was intended to help at-risk students and students in low performing schools. In my opinion, it has created an emphasis on teaching only basic skills. Students will meet the standards that are expected of them. It is better to have higher standards and provide remediation or extra assistance when needed.

One last thought, I was shocked several years ago when we moved to a different state and discovered that it is assumed only very few students will be able to enter a 4-year university upon graduation from high school. I had a school administrator inform me that only the elite students would gain direct admission into a university. I was instructed to lower my standards because the students were headed for community college. In many cases, community colleges are taking the place of high schools. They must provide prep courses to bridge between high school and a 4-year university.

Yes, many high school graduates are clueless and ill prepared for life. Yes, our educational system has serious problems. It is time for to get serious about fixing the problem instead of making more laws, regulations or adding more tests. It is time to provide schools with the funding needed. It is time to give educators the respect, support and pay they deserve. Change is not going to happen with more federal intervention but with local grassroots support.What are you doing to support schools, teachers and students in your community?

Top 10: Things My Students Have Said or Done

lovelearn.jpgAfter teaching for over 10 years I have quite a collection of humorous things my students have said or done. Thought I would share a few of my favorites. All names or other identifying information has been changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

#10 From a college history class:

  • New England is famous for its soup.
  • The perchers (sic) perched against satin.

#9 Conversation with a kindergarten student

Student: Teacher, Teacher

Me: What?

Student: Teacher, guess what I’m going to grow a mustache.

Me: Oh Really?

Student: Yes

Me: When are you going to do that?

Student: When I become a minister.

#8 Actual conversation with student needing help with a Bible assignment.

Student: Mrs. Herrod, how do you pronounce H-e-r-o-d?

Me: Same way you pronounce H-e-r-r-o-d.

#7 From a history project:

I visited Fire Station #5, it was the first fire station in our town.

#6 One year I taught a middle school class last period. The students had PE the period before. It took most of the class a while to get changed from PE, however I had one student who always beat the others to class. I decided to find out how he got changed so fast.

Me: You sure change fast.

Student: I have a secret trick that makes it faster.

Me: Oh really?

Student: Yes

Me: So?

Student: I wear my PE uniform under my school uniform. I put it on at night before I go to bed and put my school uniform over it in the morning. It is faster

Me: [Sigh]

#5 In one of my computer classes a student decided to cheat by grabbing another student’s paper off the printer. He scratched out the printed name with a Sharpie and wrote his name on the paper. Then he wanted to know how I knew he cheated. Yep, this generation will eventually be our country’s leaders.

# 4 Conversation during a history class

Student: Have you been to the Alamo?

Me: Yes

Student: You know that mall and hotel in front of the Alamo?

Me: Yes

Student: Did they really fight (battle) there?

Me: Yes

Student: Didn’t the owners of the mall & hotel get mad.

#3 Did you know most 3-hole punches will hold 23 sheets of paper at one time? One day when I had a sub 3 students (all males) decided to find out how many sheets chould be punched at one time. I returned to find a hole punch crammed full of paper on my desk. It seems that it worked for 23 sheets but the 24th was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

#2 One year my husband had his boys Bible class steal the stuffed animals from my classroom. They also stapled Garfield to the wall. Hid Rightie, the elephant, in various places in the classroom. My girls Bible class decided to retrieve the animals. Isn’t stealing a wonderful value to teach ones Bible class? Hmm…

#1 I had a high school student cleaning my white board. After he finished cleaning the board he noticed the fan was dirty.

Student: Hey you want me to clean the fan?

Teacher: Hang on a second (I was helping another student)

Student: OK, I’m going to clean the fan

Teacher: Turn off ……

Student: [Yelling !!!!]

Yes, he sprayed board cleaner into a moving fan. The scary thing is this kid was old enough to drive. I am amazed that any males live to reach the age of 18.