A hit and a miss

Well, today was better than yesterday (for me anyway – my colleague seemed to be having a harder time of it than I was, but then again she is working with one of our more difficult students).

I actually heard the following statement, in reference to a set of math problems, “Cool! Let me try another one!”

The context: Two of them are in the same class and have the same homework, and today they had a math puzzle that consisted of three columns of numbers. They had to pick one number from each column that added up to 60. The idea was to find as many of these as possible. Rather than have them whacking away at it randomly and getting frustrated, I showed them the trick of how to start from 60, pick one number at random from the first column and subtract it, then pick a second number from the second column and subtract it to see if what remains matches a number from the third column. If not, you only have to start over from the second number and not from scratch.

Apparently, this time-saving hint was a big hit – the sheet had room for 12 possible answers at best (it noted that it would be exceptional if you got all 12) and last time I looked they were both at or over 8 (a guaranteed A). So, booyah!

On the flip side, S took the kids who were done with their homework out around the development to see if they could help us recruit their friends to join up.

Total. Frakking. Disaster.

They were uncontrollable and unhelpful, to the point of thundering through the younger kids’ afterschool program with they went there to see which on our list were already attending there (to which the person running that simply stated “Get them out of here, now.”) and then standing outside one girl’s house and stating loudly that she couldn’t come because she smelled funny.

At this point, I’m about to give up on the concept of the kids being much help on this recruiting process in any structured way. Our best bet is to simply make it so much fun that they evangelize it out of sheer exuberance. Wheee…

And to drop the spoiled cherry on top of this fast-melting sundae of doom, we suspended one kid from the roster permanently for hitting another kid without provocation. Granted, it was a kid who wasn’t exactly making being at the homework club a priority (I think we’ve seen them maybe three times), but still.

*buries head in hands*

At the end of the day, we rolled out an incentive program that we’ll be trying out as a way to promote good behavior. The kids will be able to earn points for stuff like not whining and stalling on homework, being safe – which mostly just means not running up and down the stairs or leaving the building without permission – and keeping their behavior and actions respectful and nonaggressive. They’ll be able to earn one point for each of these per day, making 3 total, and if they have 10 points at the end of the week they can pick out a toy prize. Plus, they have to have 10 in order to come to Fun Fridays (which we hope to beef up enough to make missing out a bad enough thing to make them want to try). For those who fall behind or miss days, we have three possible bonus or make-up points for helping clean up the club, helping others with homework and doing an extra credit assignment (math sheets, reading, etc). The kid with the most points at the end of the quarter will get a bigger (as yet undetermined) prize and the kid with the most points at the end of the year will get an evey bigger (also as yet undetermined) prize.

Not sure how this is going to work – I’ll update here to let y’all know if it flies or falls on it’s face.

And one of our serious Kidzilla issues is still unresolved, as the kid in question wasn’t there today. I don’t know if they’ll be back or not, or if they’ve permanently switched to another program. I am disturbed that the prospect of the kid going elsewhere is such a relief, because the kid’s not a bad kid. On the contrary, the student is smart, talented and even taking positive steps to create a better future through some advanced school programs. But there are serious behavioral issues and power struggles going on – quite frankly, I don’t think they want to be there and but are being made to come, which is never a good combination – and I’m struggling enough with what’s going on to simply hope they find a place they actually want to attend and trade out.

Total cop out, I know. But real. And that’s the way it goes. We win some and we lose some, and we have to pick our battles (and this is a big one I can’t let slide and don’t want to fight). Which is about par for the course, I’m guessing. Still, I’ll take my enthusiasm for math problems and run with that. Gotta get your uplift where you can. 😀

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