Friday, December 16, 2011

Brick Wall.... SPLAT!

A couple weeks ago we hit midterms of second quarter like hitting a brick wall driving 70 mph. Literally... all my students went SPLAT! Why would I use such a horrific simile, you may ask? As midterms approached  I found I was adding more "M" grades than point values that come out in an A-F grade. "M" means MISSING. ALL of my class averages were Fs! Literally... Fs- not even 50% F, they were in the 30% range! I don't even know how this is possible... but it happened. As I spoke with other teachers I discovered my classes weren't the only ones. I was dumbfounded.  

Let me explain a few things about my class:
  1. Most of our work is done IN CLASS.
  2. When I give homework assignments they are as SIMPLE as can be.
Let me share a story illustrating WHY my class is set up this way:

Once upon a time I assigned my students a 2 PARAGRAPH essay (the minimum number of sentences per paragraph is 4... this means all they need is 8 sentences). They were to analyze the beliefs of 2 world religions they just learned about and took notes on. They were then to hypothesize about how people from those 2 religions would interact with each other based on their belief systems. That was the whole assignment. It was due the next class period which was 2 days away (we're on a block schedule.) Jump forward to the day it is due: 1st Period- "Please pass forward your 2 paragraph essays." *A few rustling papers and then silence as I stare at the ONE paper in my hand then look around the class in astonishment.* 3rd Period: repeat of 1st... 4th Period- 5 papers.... and so on the next day of classes. 

As I remember this experience I am still dumbfounded. I have no understanding of how that can happen in EVERY class. The next few days leading up to midterms I projected their grades up on the screen so they could see the ridiculousness of what was happening. They were shocked.... just as they were when they received their midterm grades the beginning of the next week. We had some great chats about what it takes to succeed. I expressed my dismay at the apparent apathy toward LIFE. I don't feel like I'm a bad teacher, sure, I'm not is my first year... but I know I'm not THAT bad. 

After pondering and discussing the matter of how to succeed and giving them a great wake-up call, I then asked for their feedback on how I am doing as a teacher. We made a contract earlier in the year about how they can succeed and how I can help them do so, but I hadn't asked for their input into the part about me... so I decided to take that adventure. Thankfully I received a lot of positive feedback that seemed sincere as well as realistic suggestions on how to improve... and of course some ridiculous ones. Then there were the polar opposite comments...

The following are some comments from my students I just had to share:

Polar Opposties:
  • You give us the perfect amount of work and enough time to do it. VS. You need to give us more time to finish assignments.
  • You get too grumpy sometimes/You're really uptight. VS. You're nice, cool, and "chill."
  • You need to explain things more clearly. VS. You explain well and are very helpful.
Oh... You Funny Students:
  • I would like to ask you to get a little easier, but I don't want to tell you how to teach.
  • Lay off giving assignments. Let me have an A or B without finishing any work.
  • (This one is kind of sad, but funny too) You expect too much out of some kids. Some people don't care, which is stupid of them, but it's their own choice. Don't put extra effort into forcing them to try.
  • You're doing good for being pregnant.
  • Students should be thankful you're nice and don't yell at us.
  • And my favourite: You're a good teacher, but in the coming months you will probably have mood swings because of your baby stuff. So then again, you might lash out at the class.
A Few of the Warm Fuzzies:
  • I like your teaching!
  • You are really and truthfully a wonderful teacher.
  • You are one of my favourite teachers.
  • Keep doing what you are doing because you are an awesome teacher.
  • You are awesome. You are too nice, but I like that. I just hope you don't go home and be sad. Just be strong and be nice as you are. Always smile, just the way you are.
  • You are great even though you are hard.
  • You really are a great teacher, especially being that it's your first year.
  • You are the most awesome teacher in the world. I love you, you will always be my favourite teacher.
  • This class is the best cuz you teach good.
  • I like you teaching us. You let us have fun sometimes. Your work is hard, but you make it seem easy.
Ah... I love these kids even though we've had a rough quarter!