When another teacher fails to teach your students...

9:00 AM

Teachers all have standards, right?  Your state/district or Common Core has placed some sort of guidelines (whether we agree 100% with them or not,) on what should be taught and when, what students should know when they exit your classroom, and often check-in on students through some sort of district or state-wide assessments.

As a 5th grade teacher, I know what is expected of my students when they move on to 6th grade.  I try to give them the best education they can get from me, and strive to see them meet those benchmarks and assessments.
  • Am I perfect? Far from it.
  • Do my students always pick the right answer on a test, even though they know the material? Nope.
  • Am I able get through all the material by state test time? No way--we test in April and still have the rest of that month plus about 5 more weeks before school ends!
However, I do pride myself on sending students off to middle school knowing, or at least being exposed to, the material that I am required to teach them.  My issue comes, then, with students who enter my classroom with no exposure to a topic that I am supposed to build upon or move their learning farther along the continuum.  These students haven't just missed a concept or don't quite grasp it.  Rather, a prior teacher that was in charge of that standard failed to teach them--they glossed over that concept, chose not to teach it, or skipped it all together.

I get worked up over this Every.Year.  How could "those teachers" fail to teach my students the standards?  How dare they skip teaching {insert standard/topic here} and leave it on my plate?  How will I ever will I make-up the ground that needs to be covered?

My administrator has told my team and me that she does not care about students' scores on standardized tests.  Let me clarify that, she cares, as we all want our students to do well, but she doesn't feel that a student's score is a reflection on the teacher they have.  As much as I agree, my heart still sinks whenever a student "Does Not Meet Standards."  What did I not teach?  Where did I go wrong?  What more could I have done for them?

Here's how I have {tried} to deal with this.  I am no expert, so please share how you may have combatted this in the comments--I would love your input!

1) Talk to administration.
As much as this feels like tattling, let the big boss know that someone isn't pulling their weight, and that it is impacting your classroom.  Administration does evaluation of teachers, but we know these can (often) be scheduled in advance and the admin is looking for certain things (such as behavior management.)  The administrator may not realize that a whole concept is being missed in science if they are in observing math, for instance.  For my 5th grade group, this helped to push the principal to get StudyIsland for Science, an application/test prep program to help bridge the gap between students' learning.  Plus, administration gets paid the big bucks to deal with issues like this and have those hard conversations with teachers.

2) DON'T gossip/complain about it to others, especially those outside your team.
I am 100% guilty of this, which is why I feel justified offering sage advice to others! :o)  Gossiping, bad-mouthing, complaining, venting, whatever you want to call it, to those outside of your team/grade level is NOT going to help.  All this does is get more people riled up about the issue and it pits people against each other.  This can create a hostile work environment and involves more people than necessary in the problem.

3) Find apps and programs to help support this missed learning.
Under #1 I mentioned that we use StudyIsland for Science now.  I don't have time to repeat teaching a science concept that is under a previous grades' standards, and not every student in my class may have missed that concept.  So, instead, as a review for those who had it, or an introduction to those who missed it, I assign StudyIsland as an activity to complete during our science time.  I CANNOT devote a whole lesson to teaching this concept, but I CAN give students 10 minutes each science block to work through this app and gain exposure to this concept, or review it and dive deeper/extend their learning.

Other apps/websites I have used: Prodigy (Math,) Khan Academy (Math,) Edumentum (this is the same company as StudyIsland, we are beta testing some new software for math, language arts and reading at my school; it is going great!)

Teachers have shared other ideas with me as well, such as:

3) Provide small group learning, or peer teaching opportunities
If a concept seems to have not been taught to certain students, I will group them either all together and conduct small group mini-lessons, or I will split those students up and provide peer-to-peer teaching opportunities with group work.  At this point of the year, I know who was in class with each other the previous year, and so if little Johnny has no idea about the concept we are working on, then it is very likely that Susie, Sandra, and Tommy are lost as well. I use resources or reading passages I have found on TeachersPayTeachers to conduct these mini-lessons, or will have small groups teach each other the concept through collaboration on a project.

Lisa from Hookster's Ideas wrote me: "I would often send some of my 5th graders who needed phonics help to be teacher aids in the K-1 classes during their phonics instruction. This helped a ton without embarrassing them."  What a great way for the student to gain confidence in their own phonics ability by hearing the K-1 teacher's lesson and then "teaching" it and providing support to the younger students!  In fact, Lisa has a whole blog post devoted to planning for small group instruction, check it out here.

4) When it doubt, I {try to} follow Elsa's advice.
Easier said than done, I know, but it does help a teeny bit.  I have found that working on the things I can change helps keep me in a positive place.  My students missed ---- concept. Okay, what can I do to to help teach that while still moving forward?


When a student "Does not meet" the standards, and it is not because of outside factors, poor test taking, learning disabilities, etc., I cannot continue to beat myself up over it.  The truth is, I did my best, and continue to do all I can for my students.  I reflect upon my lessons and see where there are holes; lessons that I could improve upon or go in more depth on.  I make lessons engaging for the students, provide review opportunities, pour my heart and soul into teaching them.  But, I am only one person, one teacher on their journey.  I have my students for so many days and weeks, so many lessons.  Before they were my students they were somebody else's students.

How do you feel about teachers failing to teacher your students the standards?  Do you have an accountability system in place at your school?  How do you combat this issue?

by Sara from Draz's Class

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