I'm feeling rather down... Yesterday was yet another sad example of my wondering how much of an educational impact I'm having on my students. While I am not their history teacher, part of my job is to ensure that they are academically successful in all subject areas and so I provide additional tutoring on all topics during my small-group time with them, including history.
As I'm mentioned previously, we have been going over the major events of WWII ad nauseum. We've discussed it, looked at pictures and posters, watched movies, and filled out countless notes and worksheets on the topic. The unit culminated in a test.
One of my students could not tell me if Germany was on our side or was one of our enemies during WWII. She also answered the question of "Who became president after FDR?" with "Hitler". She couldn't tell me which country Hitler was from. She suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, which doesn't really justify blanking out a whole month's worth of going over this again and again. Had I overestimated her? Had I assumed too much and so failed to reach her? Had I somehow failed to see she might suffer more than what she has been diagnosed with?
Another student couldn't identify which countries constituted the Allies, so I gave these clues: "They're famous for eating frog legs, snails, and their capital city has the Eiffel Tower."
I got no response. I really believe that these kids suffer tremendously from having such limited general knowledge. It's so enriching to be aware of so many wondrous things in the world, and if nothing else it helps to figure out the answers to questions they may struggle with on our infamous standardized tests.
What is depressing me even more is the thought that maybe I'm just some glorified babysitter rather than actualizing interventions in terms of their disabilities. Now, I'm fully aware that negative behaviors may be related to their disability and their frustration at being unable to entirely overcome it, but there are so many, many factors beyond my control.
So one of my ex-students is learning disabled, which is the least pervasive disability I work with, but most of my time was spent trying to get him to stop trying to sell stuff illegally at school and stop talking about how much he makes selling drugs back in his neighborhood. Another is learning disabled too, but I'm trying to get her to find a reason to even want to wake up in the morning because her family life has gone to hell. She puts her head down in all classes, so I approach her and try to distract her from her thoughts with algebra or science and gentle coaxing. It's like handling a ticking time bomb.
I worked with this other girl any spare moment I had because she was never formally identified as having a disability but she had issues. I gave her enough help to get her to pass her classes, but the following year she tells me she's pregnant. She will be the first of three girls I will lend my "butt pillow" to ease the pressure on their little pregnant bodies.
This other kid with a learning disability comes to school and sleeps all day because he spent last night sleeping in his bath tub for fear of getting shot by a stray bullet from a fight going on outside.
The fact is, I'm depressed because I know there's no where I'd rather be than by these kids' side and there's no way I could do enough to help them make their lives what they should be.