Five. The number of hours I probably have left helping this student finish her research paper.
Three. The number of adults who helped this student tonight, AT ONE TIME.
FIFTEEN HOURS, people. That is close to half the amount of hours a person with a FULL TIME job works. This all took place after school and on the weekend.
I am sure the teacher did not intend on it taking this amount of time, but unfortunately this is not out of the norm in our world. I am left to wonder what exactly would have happened had there not been a support system created for this child.
This project required 3 references one of which had to be internet, the other two books.
A visual aide which required supplies.
A TYPED report, which requires a computer.
Note cards of notes taken from references which have to be turned in with project.
The knowledge of how to write a research paper in the fifth grade.
For a child in a comfortable environment, who successfully passed all previous grades, has a computer, the internet, the transportation and the resources to get all of the supplies, not to mention an attentive parent to assist....it's not a super far stretch. Timely, but doable. The average student we work with does not have access to all of those things. There are many adults who never finished school or know how to write a research paper themselves. So, what would have happened to this sweet student ? She probably would have not even tried. She would have accepted the zero, thus potentially failing the class.
Does this mean we give these kids a free pass on hard work and education? ABSOLUTELY NOT! BUT....it does mean there there NEEDS to be some sort of wake up call about education/resources/opportunities in at risk/title 1 areas. It is not reasonable to think that they can do all of that IN class.
We see more failing students passed on to the next grade because 1) They are too old to really stay held back and 2) The teachers are just tired of dealing with them so they send them on to the next grade. We have students who can't add and subtract, more less multiply and divide in MIDDLE school! Then, they get promoted and told if they will just participate in an after school program they can be promoted again to their "correct grade." What the heck?! Guess what? This is frustrating for many teachers as well who have personally told me that THEY get in trouble for not promoting certain kids.
When a child gets promoted without learning the foundations of the former grade they are being set up to fail. They get into the next grade. They don't understand it. They feel stupid and guess what? They will eventually quit when they are old enough.
This is the only reason I can even in good conscience spend 15+ hours on a research paper with an 11 year old. There are moments when I just want to slide the computer over and do it for them because it is painstakingly slow, BUT I know the time invested in TEACHING them to do it on their own will reap long term benefits. I KNOW this girl will be so proud of herself when all is said and done and that will be worth every minute.
But in the meantime here is what I can tell you.
Abe Lincoln was born in a one room cabin and when you have to collect sticks to build a replica of that cabin in the middle of a monsoon....putting them on a cookie sheet in the oven to dry them out does in fact work.