Tuesday, March 06, 2007


It's been one of those days. I'm tired, dd's tired, ds is tired, the 12yo was tired, the 15yo was tired. I wasn't in the mood to fight with the 12yo, fight trying to get him to work, that is, so I just let him go off and do whatever it was he was doing. He did come to the table eventually and we got phonics and spelling work done. But his attention was nowhere near his work today. It was on drawing, and playing tic-tac-toe by himself and playing with geomags...

The 15yo was so unfocused on her math. I've barely given her any questions, but she just could not process today. I don't know how she's going to pass this course. She's behind and not even working at a pace she would need to do to be on track, much less catch up. She totally admitted today to being unmotivated. How do I motivate her? Is it my job? And I don't know if she's going to be here Thurs. and Fri. (I found out the two will only be gone two days) because that was going to be dependent upon doctor's recommendations (her physiotherapist recommended that she not go on the dive meet). If I talk with her tomorrow and she's gone Thurs-Sun., our talk may not carry over until Monday.

What will we talk about? I'll tell her that if she had started the three courses (English, Math and Science) at the beginning of this semester, she's already behind. She actually started English and Math at the end of September. I'll tell her that for math, she's looking at possibly not finishing by the end of June. Do I tell her that if I were her school counsellor and she'd come to me for guidance I'd tell her to drop Math 10 and go for Math 10 Prep and do Math 10 during the summer? There's no way she'd do Math 10 during the summer. "I can't. I've got diving and I'm away and..." But maybe suggesting it would help her realize where she's at? Or would it just discourage her further?

I somehow need to bring into our conversation her recurring comments about how she "can't" do math very well or things like that. I need to bring up that there are different types of people: there are those who learn math very quickly with little practice. There are those who learn math fairly quickly with moderate practice. There are those who take longer to learn math and need extra practice. All of them can learn the same math. It's just that those who want to really learn it need to put more into it. The amount of work I'm having her do right now, and I'll tell her this, is only just enough to get 50-55%. (That's barely passing here.) Recommended mark to be able to handle Math 20 (grade 11 math) is 65%.

I wonder if she's already getting overloaded with things. She's got work (which currently means doing report cards on her own time), diving, physio appointments, doctor's appointment, dive meet, school... The only evening during the week she's home is Wednesday.

And yet, after saying all this, I look at it as: this is grade 10. I've known people for whom grade 10 was a flop, yet they ended up doing super well by the time they were grade 12. Something clicked somewhere, something that said to them that it was important enough to really work on. That hasn't clicked for her yet. It's still about interest levels and "can or can'ts".



Correne said...

Just thought I'd offer my math experience: I'm the type who can do math, but I learn it slowly and I need to do ALL the practice examples in order to "get it." Math was always my worst subject, but because I was one of those "model students" I worked really hard at it and still got 85% most of the time. I stopped being a model student in high school, scraped by for Math 10 and Math 20, and then tried to re-apply myself for Math 30 when I realized that it would drag my average down and affect my university application. I only got 69% in Math 30, but I did make it into the U of A.

When I applied to NAIT 6 years later, they required 70% in Math 30 to get in, so I had to take the course over again (yes, for one stinking percentage point!!!) There I was, a university graduate going back to high school so I could go to NAIT! Anyway, I was so ticked (er, "motivated") that I got about 99% on that course, thanks in part to the magnificent efforts of my mathematically-gifted husband who spent hours explaining everything to me until I REALLY REALLY understood. Now that is true love.

I'm not sure how much that will help your student, except perhaps as a cautionary tale - study this now so you won't have to do it again later! I do think it's an example of how you DO NOT have to motivate her. It has to come from her. I was not motivated in Grade 10 and 11, but I WAS motivated in Grade 12, and then later as an adult when I wanted to get into NAIT.

I remember meeting a girl who was taking Math 30 for the third or fourth time because she was determined to be a doctor or a pilot or something equally amazing. Her parents wanted her to do something practical like be a secretary or a dental hygienist. It was very difficult for her, but she was NOT going to give up. I have a huge amount of respect for people like that - who keep trying even though it's "hard."

Daisy said...

THANK YOU for sharing this, Correne! It's precisely these types of stories that will help her, I think. She wants to go into medicine--but when I bring that up, she just says she "can't get the marks". She's already given up in some ways. This whole idea of having to work hard and do lots of question is going to be a focal point in my talk with her. The story about the girl taking Math 30 3 or 4 times is perfect. A prime example of what persistence can do. (Although, I think deep in her heart she believes that no amount of persistence will help her be excellent at math.)

I think what my frustration boils down to is that she has these goals, which I'm trying to help her with, but she's not really focused on them. So there's this disparity--I'm working over here while she's working over there. We've got to get onto the same page, whatever that page is!

Correne said...

On the subject of motivation and inspiration: I really enjoy reading inspirational stories. One of my favourite books is "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield. It has about 60 very short chapters, with lots and lots of examples of what ordinary people accomplished with goals, dreams, effort, not quitting, etc. Even the Chicken Soup for the Soul books have a lot of great inspirational stories in them. There are even some available in French!

Daisy said...

Thanks, Correne! I'm constantly looking out for books like that to share little things here and there with the kids.

Which reminds me that I started doing some of Emerson's "Self-Reliance" with the 12yo and haven't done any since. But they're gone today and tomorrow, so...