This photo is a big, messy jumble of sunflower faces. It’s not at all the best one I took at the sunflower field on Saturday, not by a long shot. But I chose it because that is exactly how my classroom is this week. Some kids are happily, diligently working on the project I assigned them. It involves writing and art and I thought they’d love it, and some do. But the rest of them are all a jumble just like this picture. They have either finished the project, forgoing the arty part, or they have not even begun to work on it, and seem surprised when I suggest that they do so. To verify that they really are not going to do it, I ask them, “So, you’re not doing this project?” The replies range from “Huh? What are we supposed to do? You didn’t tell me.” (Most of the others know what to do – how did you miss it?!?) to a simple “No.”
The people who have decided not to participate in the work are all students who are failing the seventh grade. No amount of project doing at this point would save them, and apparently they have realized that. It seems they were counting on Summer School to save them, to allow them to become eighth graders. Only (drum roll here) today the school district cancelled summer school for this year. That’s right, for all grade levels. “Yikes!! How will I pass seventh grade? Will I be in seventh grade again next year? This will be my third time to be retained!”
Oh, now they are worried! What they don’t realize is that they will not be retained because they are timing out. We just can’t have kids driving themselves to middle school, so they will be passed on. On to what? Their eventual dropping out? For many of them, yes. That is where they are headed and I can’t see any way to stop it. It makes me sad and angry.