Monday, November 12, 2007

Counting the days 'til winter break...

General discontent

... and feeling like I've spent the time up until now treading water. With ankle weights on.

(Mind, we're on semester blocks, so winter break marks the end of the term. And OMG, have they learned ANYTHING? I mean, beyond the ones who have enough discipline that they would've learned it even if I was [am?] a crappy teacher anyway.)

I have a student who is way, WAY below level in reading. I don't know how to teach her because I don't know what she CAN read; everything I have is above her level - with the exception of the Dr. Seuss books that I use for teaching meter and poetic sound devices!

I can NOT get my students to care about meaningful feedback. All they want to know is their grade for the assignment and how it will affect their average. I understand the rationale for not giving zeros, but if I don't wield that club, they turn nothing in, including classwork and assessments! (And of course, they spend the not-working time doing what? Disturbing students who would otherwise be working!) What am I doing wrong?! This works for everyone else!

And while I keep hearing that allowing students to turn in work late does not result in a ton of late work being turned in, may I hazard a guess? If you don't nag them to, they just don't turn in the work at ALL. And if you don't give zeros, it doesn't affect their grade. So why should they do the work? Oh, right, because it'll help them LEARN. This is a lovely idea if you have students who care about such things.

I'm grading essays according to a rubric that will allow me to show the students how they can improve future work, and... I feel like it doesn't matter. The ones who really care would find a way to improve their work no matter what I do. The ones who don't care... nothing I do will entice them to do anything other than what little I can dredge out of them anyway.

It's like ... they want to pass, in theory - but only IF they don't have to expend any effort. It looks like it's a question of what will happen when I can no longer cajole/coerce/trick/threaten them into working.

I'm just not sure how much longer I can keep attempting to help them when they consistently ignore my attempts.

PS: Yes, Mrs. Chili, I know I used those ellipses incorrectly, but dammit, I'm calling it artistic license! ;D

PS #2: I suppose it doesn't help that the blogs I read are those of master teachers. I try, I really DO try, not to compare myself to others, but it's incredibly difficult not to think, "man, so-and-so would know what to do! augh!" Maybe I'm just as bad as my students. This 'learning' thing SUCKS. I want to get past the 'learning' years and move right to the years of being 'learned'!


Joel said...

You've got to realize that you cannot unteach years of bad habits in 4 months. Your job is to encourage as much learning as you possibly can.

So the individual work thing isn't producing the results you want. Homework is so 20th century anyway. I hate the idea of daily homework assignments. I can't imagine being a teacher and having to slog through all of that stuff every day. Almost makes it worth giving a grade to the slackers who save you time!

What if you grade more stuff in class. Could you make the grading process interactive? Don't even take grades, but still assign it and then exchange papers and go over it in class. The slackers still won't do it, but they might absorb something while the answers are being discussed.

Another thing that works is to bring attention to those people who are doing well, rather than those who continually misbehave or don't turn stuff in. "Awesome! You've done your homework three times this week. That's up from twice last week!"

Anytime I see something good happening, even if it's below the expectation, I try to point it out!

The Science Goddess said...

Some ideas---which may or not be "work." :)

Let go of fussing about homework that isn't turned in. Yes, I know that if the kids don't practice, they likely won't do well on the test (summative); but, some of them will...and in that case, who cares about the homework? The kid learned what s/he needed to learn. In the meantime, what other "evidence" can you collect about questionable students? Do they ask and answer questions?

Wielding the "club" with a grade may be part of the reason you've got some point whoring. (I'm seeing something similar with my jr/sr kids---but I think it's how they were conditioned before they landed in my classroom.) If kids aren't doing their work, assign them to detention/ISS/work detail. Their choice is one that is behavioral---assign them a behavioral consequence. Putting a zero in the grade book (and then averaging, which totally blows things because you've included a statistical outlier of a grade) is sending a message that grades aren't about learning.

If kids are blowing off your feedback, then think about some conversation about it. Give them an "exit ticket" to fill out in order to leave the class at the end of the period. Ask them about what they plan to do to improve on their next assignment.

Grades and grading are never going to be perfect. We're humans making judgment about other humans. What's important is to be able to look at the name of each kid in your class and be able to know whether or not they know the material.

Clix said...

SG - How do you handle students who "miss" (or refuse to hand in) an assessment because they don't know the material, and then don't make it up?

Be Inspired Always said...

I give teachers huge credit when it comes to struggling children/or ones that are just lazy. That has to be the toughest job on earth to get them to spread their wings, without falling face first into the dirt.

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