Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Day 111: Not Wrong, But Wrong

Student: "Mr. Aion, are you collecting this sheet?"
Me: "I am. It's due at the end of the period."
Student: "Good! I need the points!"
Me: "It's not really about the points. It's only going to be worth about 10.  This is more to see what you know."
Student: "Nah. I'm all about the points."
Me: "Really? Because we have had 2 different 100 point assignments this marking period that you just didn't do."
Student: "That was a lot of work. I'll just take the points for this paper."
Me: "So you'll have 10 out of 210 possible points. That gives you a 5%"
Student: "But that's not a zero, is it?"

Waiter, I'd like my order to go, please.

This interaction bothers me for two completely different reasons.

The teacher in me is sad that points are so important.  Ideally, I want my students to strive to acquire knowledge and skills instead of points.  At worst, I would at least like them to see their scores as an indication of what knowledge and skills they have demonstrated.  I KNOW that not every kid who fails my class does so because they don't understand.

In fact, very few of them fail for this reason.  The majority of the students who are failing my classes are doing so because they will not complete assignments, therefore making it impossible for me to accurately assess their knowledge.

In reality, I recognize that a large portion of the students are working for the grades as their primary motivation and knowledge acquisition as secondary or tertiary.  Whatever gets a kid to learn...  I'm certainly not in a position to judge motivations.

But this brings me to my other concern.

While I want my students to be motivated by curiosity and interest, but if they are going to be motivated by grades, could they at least understand how those grades work??

They know that passing is a 60%, but I think schools have done a mediocre job of getting to understand how cumulation works.  It's easier to start with a high grade and maintain it than it is to start low and bring it up.

In all honesty, I'm no better at this, nor was I when I was in school.  "It's not due until Friday. I'll do it later" has put me in more tough spots than I can count.

The issue that concerns me, however, is more than just simple procrastination.  It stems from the complete confusion that I saw on the face of student today when I told her that, having missed almost 80 days of my class and having not turned in a single assignment all year, she wasn't really going to be able to pass my class.

"Well, what assignments can I turn in."
"You could start with any of them and we can work from there, but you've turned in nothing and you're never here. Did you really think you would be able to pass that way?"

And she did.  She honestly did.  She's in 11th grade.

I'm not sure what to do with this.  It's not attitude as much as ignorance in the literal sense of the word.  Many of my students are simply ignorant of how long term planning works in terms of chapters, marking periods, semesters or years.

I am in no way blaming the students for this.  As with any issue, there are some who are culpable, but this is a much bigger problem.  There are deep and systemic issues at work here.  I'm not sure how to even begin addressing them, or even if I can.

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