A student in your class is reluctant to do his work. He is talking loudly and defiantly refusing to attempt to answer any questions. The most likely cause of his reticence is:
A. His desire to be a class clown.
B. His preference for doing math instead of test prep.
C. His desire for attention, even if it is negative.
D. His frustration at having to do work that he knows is too hard for him.
I know the answer, because I wrote the question. I also know exactly who I am thinking of. Sadly, the answer is D.
It took me long enough, but I finally realized that I have at least one student who generally puts in a solid effort on his work but is, during test practice, simply mailing it in. It’s been a few weeks of a pattern of behavior – failure to look back in the passage, determination to provide answers out of context, and lots of staring into space.
The last couple of weeks have been marked by a terseness and attitude that befits this student not. No school-bound root of his anger was evident until I asked him about it today. His simple statement was quite powerful: “I’m not a genius like the rest of them.”
I tried – most likely in vain – to explain that I understood it was difficult and that it wasn’t my decision to have test prep or tests (nor was it even the principal’s!) During lunch, I reflected that this student is on the third highest reading level in the class, and that kids more than two years below grade level were even putting in a good effort. I pointed this out to him, and it seemed to convince him of his need to try harder.
We know what’s coming, though. It’s too painfully clear. This is a kid, like so many others with disabilities, who will internalize, through being forced to do things way too difficult for him, that he is stupid, dumb, and worthless, and that school is the same.
A student with a learning disability who tries his hardest at all subjects and learns best when tasks and activities are tailored in a way that is accessible to him and his unique needs is required to take the same standardized tests that students performing at grade level are required to take. The most likely outcome is:
A. He develops a strong distaste for school and seeks other interests of varying value.
B. He develops diminished senses of self-worth and confidence.
C. He disengages from any academic pursuits he previously considered.
D. All of the above.