By Anna LaRocco Masi, Northwood High School, Pittsboro, NC
It’s a Monday morning. A student speaks out in class and says, “I don’t understand.” Students with their heads down on their desks perk up to those words, thinking this may be a good time to start listening.
That vague phrase frequently frustrates teachers.
“‘I don’t understand,’ that’s not a question,” math teacher Marcus Herman-Giddens said. “I can answer questions, [but that’s] a statement. I get [my students] to put it in the form of a question.”
Many Northwood students face struggles in their classes, whether it be failing an individual test, or not understanding the entire subject material. Teachers then have to come up with ways not only to make sure all students are learning, but also to help the students who didn’t learn the material after the initial lesson.
Spanish teacher Henry Foust allows his students to retake tests so they can learn what they did not understand the first time.
“They need to understand the concepts before we go on, so if they didn’t do well on the test and get the concepts, it doesn’t do us any good to just keep rolling along,” said Foust. “They have to go back and learn those things somehow, so being able to retake the test gives them credit for going back and learning information over again.
“They will understand the next lesson better because the next lesson is going to count on the lesson we just did and if they bombed a test on pronouns they’re never going to get the verbs.”
Some students believe that it’s important for teachers to review after a test is taken as well as before, to ensure they know the material.
“I like teachers who go over the test and then spend maybe one more day reviewing everything because if I fail a test, I am not going to go home and study myself,” said senior Brittney Sanders.
To help students with the same mindset as Sanders, English teacher Phyllis Bazzari says that she gives a large amount of time and help to students who want to go back over the material.
“I give them class time to read over the corrections and my feedback. Then I follow the process of taking questions, [if they don’t understand] any of my comments or feedback, want more clarification or if they still want to say, ‘Okay, I still don’t really get why this specific question is wrong.’”
Although Bazzari takes the time to do this, not every teacher does. Some students feel as if they aren’t given a fair chance on the final exam when teachers don’t go over the test materials at all after it is taken.
“Most teachers don’t go over tests after they’ve been handed out. They just give you the grade. I think that they should go over it…so you know what you got wrong so you don’t get it wrong again,” said senior Lindsay Mason.
Many students also think that it would be helpful if the teachers spent a little bit more time reviewing afterwards. Senior Adacia Bruton said teachers should review thoroughly, but not go over every single question, just the ones students had questions about or didn’t understand.
“You have to think about class time; they have a lot of things they have to fit in a certain number of days in the year,” said Bruton.
Students think classes with more thought process, such as the core classes, require more teacher intervention.
“It was a subject I really wasn’t good in,” said freshman Noah Mehringer, who had a difficult time in a math class. “At that time, it was hard to grasp what she was teaching us.”
While some students believe that it’s either the subject’s difficulty or the teacher’s fault that they fail tests, others believe that when their peers fail or do poorly, it falls completely on the students’ shoulders.
“[My teacher] already does a great job of going over it. I just feel if you’re failing his tests, it’s because you’re not doing your work,” said Bruton.
Although some students do feel that it’s their peers’ responsibility to learn the material and go over it themselves, many Northwood teachers say they do their best to help students in need, as long as they put in the effort.
“If I know that they’re working hard, as hard as they’re supposed to, and they’re not getting it, then I will try and work out some alternative,” said Herman-Giddens. “If they’re demonstrating in another way that they don’t understand the material, then I can take that into account.”the original article from hsj.org, written by Anna LaRocco Masi