After several years in the classroom, I've decided that I want to be a better educator. These are my exploits and thoughts as I strive to rediscover my passion and purpose.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Day 64: When I Get Older, Losing My Hair...
My warm-up today was days 6 and 7 of Estimation 180. It led to a fantastic discussion about the importance of estimation and how to get better at it. We will CLEARLY be doing more of this.
I did a TON of soul searching over the weekend after updating my grades to find almost all of my pre-algebra students were "failing" and the geometry kids were not NEARLY where they should have been. The quizzes that they took on Wednesday were terrible. I was worried that they were too hard, but I don't think so. I think it was more that the students weren't taking them seriously.
So today, we talked. I reiterated my expectations of them and, more importantly, asked them to think about their expectations of themselves. What do THEY want to accomplish? Are they happy with bad grades? Is that the best work they CAN do? Or is it the best work they WANT to do?
Then I gave them a choice. Keeping in the spirit of an open gradebook and moving towards standards based grading, I explained that if they can show me mastery, or even improvement, I will change their grades accordingly. They had the option of working on their quizzes to resubmit for a better grade, continue working in their workbooks, either on work they still owe or moving forward, or they could choose to work on something from another class. It was up to them, but they had to working.
I will say that they stepped up and made me proud. This was, with minimal exceptions, across the board today! In geometry, there was one group who all earned A's on the quiz the first time around, so I pulled them aside and taught them Swish, the game I bought this weekend and got to try out at dinner with math teachers on Saturday! (Thanks for the awesome time, @SweenWSweens, @MaxMathForum, @BobLoch, @hfxMark and @MrAionsWife)
After a single introductory round, the young ladies picked the game right up and played solidly for the rest of the period while I circulated and helped other students. It was fantastic to see kids starting an activity clutching their heads in pain and finish by shouting at each other in triumph!
I hope that sometime soon, we can have a game day. I don't want games to be a reward for good work, but rather be the work that is its own reward!
In the first pre-algebra class, there was a student who is doing poorly, not because of low aptitude, but because his behavior, which I deem as not age-appropriate, has been distracting him from doing his best. Today, when it became a distraction to others, I pulled him into the hallway with the school behavior specialist and we had a talk. We told him that we want him to do well and that I KNOW he can do the work, but his choices are making it difficult for that to happen.
He went for a walk with the behavior specialist while I got the rest of the class started on their work. When he returned, he worked his butt off! I showered him with praise, genuine and heartfelt. I told him how proud I was that he was making a better choice and, if I could help him at all, to please let me know.
I found several other students in the hall and made a special point to tell them how proud I was of the work they were doing this year.
In "difficult" schools, we spend WAY too much time focusing on the negative behaviors and not celebrating victories in a genuine way. As @AGHolman told me a few months ago, true praise can't be "Great job showing up to school today!" It must be real, heartfelt and not sarcastic.
I think about the segment of Chris Rock's standup where we talks about how certain people want pats on the back for doing what they're supposed to do. As racially charged and funny as that piece is, I think he's wrong. I think that when students spend so much time hearing about what they do wrong, they need to hear a sentence or two when they do something right, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to us.
It may be the whole world to them.
And it may be the sentence that helps them make better choices.
An interaction with a student (holding back privileges due to his behavior) resulted in him throwing his belongings against the wall and sulking angrily at his table. After he had cooled down, I pulled him outside and talked to him. I told him how, at the beginning of the year, he was on the ball, doing everything right. I told him how concerned I was about his decline over the past few weeks. I told him that he had the potential to be an amazing role model for the other students, but instead, he was allowing them to be role models for him.
I told him that he was allowing others to make bad choices for him when he knew better. I said all of this with love and concern, making sure that I wasn't yelling. I could see his eyes getting wet and he agreed with everything I said. He came back in and began working his butt off.
Today was a good day for student interaction.
I came to work today not "feeling it" at all and was worried about how I was going to interact with the students. I opened up to them about how I felt and the thoughts I had been having over the weekend and they turned my day around. These are the days worth getting out of bed.
With that said, I'm ready to go back to bed...
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Bravo Justin!! I knew you had it in you. :)ReplyDelete
I can't take credit for the good classes today. I'll put that all on dynamics and the kids being in a receptive mood.Delete
I will, however, take all the credit for good student interactions! :-)
There's nothing like the truth to reach a kid. If what you say is undeniably true, and not cushioned in false praise, but clearly coming from the heart, they have nowhere to hide. That emotional reaction sounds like a real breakthrough, might even have been the first time he had to be honest with himself.ReplyDelete
Sounds like a great day for everyone! Don't you just love this job?
Most days I do! False praise can kill a student-teacher relationship. No matter how unprepared or behind they are, these kids are smart and they know when they are being placated.Delete
Treat kids genuinely and they will respond, eventually.
Inspired by the call to action/praise--I especially like the idea of finding students in the hallways and praising them there! Seems obvious--why haven't I been doing that? Great idea!!!ReplyDelete
Now, to track down @maxmathforum to see if he'll play Swish with me this weekend ...
I need to do it more often. I did it a bunch at the beginning of the year and got out of the habit.Delete
Also, Max is a quiet card shark. He was ROCKIN' it when we played on Saturday!
"Today was a good day for student interaction" been there! Teaching can be like that one sweet golf shot you get every once in awhile. I'm right there with you, sometimes interacting with a student in a positive manner can be far more challenging than find the right questions to ask students in a math lesson. Keep up the good fight!Delete
I look forward to SWISH!
Along those lines - a simple behavior that I find really helps my day is to get away from my desk between classes and greet students as they walk in the door. This also allows me to (briefly) chat with other students walking by. I feel like this ALWAYS helps my mood and sets a positive tone for the beginning of class.Delete
I'm having similar trouble with my classes. Tons of kids failing fair assessments. We are moving to SBG and it is unfamiliar territory for all of us. I offered retakes, but said that it would be more challenging. I would say that < 10% of the students took the tests again. Those who didn't stated the difficulty as their reason, but they want better grades. Somehow they blame me, but don't study. Not sure if you've run into this, but it's been a terrible struggle for me lately. Thanks for the post.ReplyDelete
This was part two of the assessment. Part one was multiple choice and they did VERY well. I was able to leverage that into saying "Clearly, you know what you're doing, but you're getting tripped up by the words. Try it again and show me what you know!"Delete
I also think that since I didn't say they had to, but gave them the choice, that most of them wanted to do better.
YOU are a fantastic teacher! Way to turn yourself around (not feeling it) and be the teacher you are striving to be-one who cares, is creative, and gets excited by pushing the boundaries! Keep reaching for and achieving the challenging but worthwhile goal you have set for yourself and your students this year!ReplyDelete
I don't know about the first sentence, but I'm certainly working on it. It was the kids who turned it around for me today and they deserve the credit for it.Delete
Glad to hear things went so well for you and the students today!ReplyDelete
Also: Many years from now ... Will you still be with me at the fireside; Sunday morning go for a ride?ReplyDelete