Our semester’s almost over, and my sophomores have one major project left. About a third of my classes are failing, and about a fifth of each class has such a low F that, even if they get full credit on the final project, it’s impossible for them to pass.

Granted, most of those irredeemable Fs rarely, if ever, show up, but there are more than a few who show up every day. They just don’t turn anything in.

Some of them are quite bright, and, given how many of the assignments are credit/no-credit, should have the highest marks in the class. Throughout the entire semester, they don’t do any of the work, whether their in-class work or the rare homework assignment I’ve assigned.

Clearly, they weren’t motivated enough, even to come in at any time during my turn-in-make-up-assignments-at-lunch week. Nobody showed up after school when I offered time to help them out.

At least one world history student stopped showing up last month. Since then, truancy caught him once and forced him to come to class. I took the opportunity to ask him why he stopped coming to class. Exasperatedly, he said:

I already have an F. I’m already going to have to re-take this class. Why should I show up?

I checked his grade after class, and he was well within the passing range; he still had a shot. I would have told him this if I had seen him since.

So many have resigned to their fate already. Is there anything more I can do but resign along with them?


  1. Oh sure!

    Unless you meant LEGALLY…

  2. Yeah, that would be ideal.

  3. This is what I mean about teaching in an inner city school. There are too many outside pressures to keep students interested in school. Parents, if there are any, are so overwhelmed just making a living, that they have very little time to take an interest in their students.

  4. From my limited experience and considering what my master teachers say, I think that’s right on money.

    Students have told me that there are more important things than school. I tell them I agree, and I follow this up with a “That doesn’t mean school is unimportant.”

  5. Although I teach in a rural school, I imagine that the frustration that comes from students who do not come to class is the same as teachers who teach in inner city schools. Truancy is not only a inner city school issue, we are dealing with it out in the country.

    I teach senior level classes that are required to graduate. I have had several students who are amongst those who do not believe they need to come to class. Unfortunately for a few of my students, their choices have resulted in their not receiving a high school diploma.

    Even though the students are exasperating, you can’t walk away from your own students. I don’t have a magic bullet to eliminate truancy, but here are a few things that worked for many of my students. I hope that they may be helpful for you (and maybe you’re already doing this):

    1) Grade printouts every week for those who are failing. Although I post grades every week, many students who are failing do not look at the postings.

    2) Working with the academic counselors. Basically, I send grade sheets of failing students to the counselors and the counselors contact the students.

    3) Personal discussions with students. This is hard to do sometimes because you have more than just them in class, but pulling students aside and telling them about their grade, and asking what their plans are to fix that grade has helped a few.

    4) Assignment tracking worksheet. I have an assignment tracking worksheet that allows students to not only track if they did an assignment but also if they turned that assignment in. So many of the assignments that are missing are located in a backpack or a book. The sheet has worked for a number of students.

    5) Calls home. This may be helpful if you can get ahold of the parents, but I also try to get a feel for the home situation by talking with counselors/teachers etc… I don’t want to call a parent that will then physically or mentally abuse their child if I am able to find that information before picking up the phone.

    Although it doesn’t always feel that way, I believe that most parents, even if tired, are interested in their students success. That doesn’t mean that other concerns do not affect the ability of the parent to intervene with the scholastic success of their student. Just taking the effort to contact them is usually appreciated (emphasis on usually).

  6. My master teacher does four of those five. For me, it’s still a lot to juggle while worrying about getting lessons created.

    Just taking the effort to contact them is usually appreciated (emphasis on usually).

    What happens when it isn’t appreciated?

  7. When it’s not appreciated you say “Thank you for your time. Contact me if you have questions or concerns in the future.” After that, hang up, brush the dirt off your shoulder and then call the next number.

  8. Fair enough. Does that happen often, or would I be right to say that most parents — 80 percent, say — are reasonable and on my side?

  9. I think that the percentage is higher. I think that it is far more likely that a parent, if not in support of what you’re trying to accomplish (high success, i.e. above a bare minimum), may only show concern with “are they passing?”

    Of course we want to see our students (and parents) not settle for 60%. However, the 60% is passing, and technically on your side.

    Only rarely will a parent be completely against you, and that’s never fun. In my experience that has happened when a student has been disciplined. That said, even if a parent believes that the student’s grade should be higher or that the student shouldn’t have been disciplined, if you are keeping good records, attempting to help the student throughout, you can withstand most scrutiny. If you have to have a meeting with that parent, take your records. Hopefully you will have a supportive administration on your side.

  10. Hopefully you will have a supportive administration on your side.>

    In the end, that’s what it boils down to, as far as I’ve heard. I cross my fingers.

    I tell my students that, as far as I am concerned, a B is passing. Most don’t listen. Some do.

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