You cannot help the students who refuse to help themselves.
Case in point: Monica has missed two days due to a suspension. We are currently working on a paper for the last (relatively short) book we've just read, When the Emperor was Divine. It's all of 150 pages, which when compared to To Kill A Mockingbird, should be a freakin' cake walk.
Monica has taken the test for this book. She has been in class and listened to discussions about said book. She participated in a presentation on background information on the book. She turned in a reading guide for the book. She has received the handouts to aid in the writing of the paper for the book. She asks me to help her get started on the paper. Fine, it's what I do.
So I start asking her questions about the topic she picked. And it's not like she had to think hard; we gave them their thesis statements this time. All they had to do was pick a side and fill in the blanks (The interment of the Japanese Americans was ________ because _____________.).
Every question I ask her is met with the same responses: "I don't know." "This is hard." "Can I go to the bathroom?" Not a single thing is coming from my questioning that is going to be helpful for this girl. We manage to eek out a thesis stance after about 20 minutes (twenty minutes of surpressing my urge to smack her....), but any progress she made was completely halted when she dropped this little beauty into my lap:
"I didn't finish the book."
Okay, sweetheart. What the hell am I supposed to do, write the damn paper for you? How in the hell were you able to take the test and fill out the reading guide if you didn't read?!? And when I told her that perhaps she should remedy that by, say, reading the damn book, she hits me with this little jem:
"Well, if something isn't interesting to me than I just don't comprehend it."
Someone somewhere in this kid's school career mentioned that if she's not interested in something, she doesn't comprehend what she's reading, and now the little darling is using it as a crutch. And let's not even bring up the CLASS TIME DEVOTED TO READING OUT LOUD. She'd have to read 10 pages at home at one time, tops. And hell, half the shit I read in college was boring as fuck, but I read it, goddammit. Never before in my (albeit short) career have I ever witnessed a student completely defeat themselves before they even start. And after she tells me that she "can't comprehend" the book, she goes on about how she needs to bring her grade up hardcore. Uh, if you don't read the book, you're going to need a miracle to bring up the 35% you currently have in my class.
The kicker of all this is that she ASKED TO MY FACE if she could write the paper if she just got the "gist of it"; meaning she wanted me to give her the Spark Notes version of a book I read in less than two hours. Because she was out for two days, she thinks she's entitled to lots of help, failing to realize that 1. she was suspended for having her phone out in class (presumably busted mid text), and 2. WE FINISHED READING THE BOOK A WEEK AND A HALF AGO. She had PLENTY of time to do what she was supposed to do, but she tells me that she had a shitty weekend because her "mom was in the hospital", a claim I can say in all seriousness that has zero credibility at this point, since she has a habit of lying about serious shit in an effort to buy herself time. And her father is "super concerned" about her performance in school. Here's an idea... TAKE THE DAMN PHONE AWAY. Don't talk about your concern for your daughter's lack of motivation in school in one breath and bitch about the 600 texts she sends in one month in the next. Guess what, Daddy Dear? Those two events are completely related!!!
Maybe I should go back to selling dog food. Dogs don't talk back.