Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Xactly as much time as a student thinks he needs

X is a bit of a stretch today because we’re talking about “extended time.”

Who doesn’t want extended time?  I know I do.  I don’t have enough hours in the day to prep for everything I want, or to grade everything, or to do more research and figure out a better way to teach a concept.  I’d love extended time.

But that’s not exactly what we mean on day X of the A-Z blog challenge.  Extended time is usually included as part of a 504, which is a set of accommodations a student may need in order to get the most out of his or her learning experience.  Students with dyslexia, ADD or ADHD, dyscalculia or various other learning disabilities may have a 504 plan.  It specifies that the student needs certain accommodations, such as having test questions read aloud to him or her, seating near the front of the room or bigger type on the class handouts. 

Students who have extended time get time and a half.  Often this may mean a student who has a diagnosis of a learning disability would also get an extra day or two to turn in assignments. 

Most of the students I had who had extended time never wanted to publicize it.  It’s not shameful or anything, but these students didn’t want to stick out as being “special” or “privileged,” especially when their friends didn’t get the same accommodations.  Most of them tried their hardest to still finish tests and turn things in on time. 

I did have a student once who decided he needed “extended time” for pretty much everything.  This sophomore probably did have ADD but didn’t have a diagnosis or a 504 plan to help him out.  He’d heard that students sometimes get extra time, so he told me he was supposed to get that too.  Let’s call the student Toby, because that was his name.

“Toby,” I said, “I can’t just give you extended time for a test.”

“Yes you can,” he said confidently.  “Omar gets it, and I get to have it too.”

“No, Omar has a paper from the school that says he gets extended time on tests.  You don’t have a paper that says that.”

Toby came in the next day and grandly handed me a sheet of paper, on which his mother had written, “I give Toby permission to get extra time.”

I can’t say to a student, “Are you an idiot?” even if that’s what I’m thinking.  But I CAN ask him subtle questions that will quickly make him feel like an idiot.  

“Why are you giving this to me?” I asked. 

“You said I needed a paper, so I got one.” 

“You can’t give me a paper signed by your mother.  I am not legally allowed to give you extended time on anything unless I have paperwork from the school and from Mrs. Cihan.”

“Did Omar give you a paper?  Because if he did, that’s not fair – I have a paper too!”

“No, THE SCHOOL gave me a paper ABOUT Omar.  If you want a paper, you’ll need to have your parents talk to Mrs. Cihan.”

“Can I go talk to her?”

“You’re not hearing me.  Your PARENTS have to talk to her.” 

“And then what?”

“They’ll set up a meeting.”

“And then what?”

I was tired of this by now.  “They’ll talk.  And after weeks of waiting and documentation, you’ll get your paper.  Now sit down and start your test.”

He sat down.  “Man, that’s not fair.”

Toby fell asleep the last 20 minutes of the test, then asked if he could skip his biology class to come and finish it. Meanwhile, Omar started immediately, worked nonstop and handed in his test right before the bell.