Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day 103: The Great Unburdening

I spent almost the entirety of geometry telling them how disappointed I was in the results of their projects.  I have noticed, along with several of the other teachers, a drastic decline in the quality of work on these "upper tier" students over the last few weeks.  I reminded them again about my goals of the class, to produce students who are proficient thinkers.

I think I did very good job of not showing anger, but sadness, which is truly what I feel.  I praised their creativity and dedication to creating amazing parks in Minecraft.  I told them how impressed I was at the incredible imaginations they displayed.  I told them how disappointed I was that only three groups managed to stick to the deadline, only four managed to turn it in at all, and not a single one managed to incorporate all of the presentation elements that were required.

I think that this group of students respects me.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that they look up to me, but I know that many of them do like me.  I hope that by expressing my disappointment, rather than anger, it will help some of them to realize that I truly do care about them.

I said a ton of things to them, but one thing in particular that I remember was that I never, under any conditions, want to hear that something they have done is "good enough."  I expect them to work towards excellence and, more importantly, they should expect themselves to work towards excellence.

In period 4/5, I started my lesson, but ended it pretty early on when students made it abundantly clear that they didn't care.  We had a long talk about how many different ways I have tried to engage them and how those have failed.  The students who needed to hear it the most puts their heads down and went to sleep.

The acknowledged my efforts to make the class interesting.  One of the students even said "we aren't used to learning math any way other than worksheets."  We had a discussion about the difference between doing math and doing calculation.

In period 8/9, I was trying again to ignore the distractions that were not distracting the students.  As a result, I had a student with an iPhone case pretend that she had an actual phone.  She pretended to call her mom and tell her how mean I was being for not letting her go to the bathroom.  It was a "no hall-pass day" so I couldn't even if she hadn't spent the first 45 minutes singing Disney songs at the top of her lungs.

I had a very good lesson for the 3 students who were willing to receive it.

I can feel the indifference clawing at me, seeking purchase.  My will to fight it is waning.

Anger is easier than sadness, but I can't gather the energy for it.

I've been going to sleep around 9 each night, often crashing as soon as my children are in bed.  It doesn't seem to help.

My only solace is that I'm overhearing other teachers talk about how their days have been awful.  While I don't wish ill on them, it reminds me that things are happening outside of my classroom that are often out of our control.

I'm just so tired of it being a fight every day.


  1. I had a similar issue with my upperclassmen a couple of years ago. I always assign a research paper (5-8 pages on anything they want as long as it's tangentially chemistry-related).

    I got crap papers. Lots of weird fonts and margin-expanding to make the page count (like I don't know that trick), and very little dedication to the content. Several plagiarized papers/sections and a few from paper farms.

    The next year, I required the paper, and 3 weeks later, a revision. For the most part, it helped the kids get into it, and I weeded out the crap in the first round. Anything that was good could be improved.

    I think your park projects are done; the kids are done, and you've done your reflection with them. Maybe the next project has a rough/final draft component.

  2. Really diggin' wwndtd's idea of the rough/final split. Could even extend that to making the rough draft deadline be a time for peer review. Let Ss see what their peers are doing, offer feedback and gain insight into how to improve their own. I have really mixed feeling about peer review, given in practice it tends to not get very far. But in theory it is a great opportunity for Ss, and my thinking is Ss need opportunities.


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