Today was progress report day. I gave each and every student a print out showing learning targets and their progress towards meeting them (aka did you do your assignments). It was a huge hubbub and I’m now officially the most unpopular teacher at school. The kids were in a tizzy and I even had 2 students storm outside for a break in the hall to collect themselves. It’s appalling to me how many students come to school every day and still manage to complete absolutely zero assignments – no classwork, no lab, no quizzes, and most definitely no homework. For some reason or another (I’m still mulling it over), this quarter has been an especially bad one. In one class out of 30 students, only 7 have a passing grade or higher. That means even if I “discount” students who never show up, I’m maintaining a 30% passing rate. I have an abysmal HW return rate – they just don’t do it. I also expect students to not only do their work, but to do it well and according to the guidelines of the assignment. I don’t give credit for “effort”, meaning if I ask about osmosis and they scratch something out about Osmosis Jones, I don’t take it.
So this begs to question, “What am I doing wrong!?” By the end of my third section of Living Environment class, I’d fallen into a pit of self-doubt. After all, if so many kids are failing, it MUST be me and NOT them. I’m doing something wrong, I need to change something. Is that true? Or have I been brainwashed by all the anti-teacher rhetoric floating around out there? These grades (or lack of grades, rather) has weighed heavily on me all day, so I went searching for answers. I gave my classes time to air grievances and make comments, I conferenced with my co-teacher and I even sought advice from my administrator (“let me think about that one…”). This is what I learned today:
Student #1: “You grade too hard miss! I struggle in all my classes, but yours way more than others!”
Student #2: “You’re too strict! I worked so hard on this and you still only gave be a 2.1 (we use standards based grading where 1=not meeting the learning target, 2=approaching the target, 3=meets the target and 4= excels at the learning target)!
Student #3: “You give too much work!”
Student #4: (to another student, right in front of me) “I can’t even listen to her talk right now, I’m too pissed. Ugh, she needs to just shut up!”
Student #5 “WHAT? This is mad f-ed up! I do all my work!”
-I should have other teachers grade my lab reports and compare scores. Maybe I am too strict with grading. I use a rubric, which the kids have a copy of. Maybe I need to ease up on sticking to it.
-I need to ease up on assigning homework, and/or I should not count all of them, just some.
-The kids thought I was laughing at them sinisterly when in fact I was trying to force a smile while they were all voicing their discontent. My uncomfortable smile apparently = evil I’m-out-to-get-you laugh. Crap.
-I just need to ease up in general.
In my defense, this is how I help support my kids academically with their work:
-I scaffold the shit out of every assignment I give by outlining reports for them, giving them graphic organizers, vocabulary instruction, etc. I practically hold their hands through every assignment. My co-teacher even created a “fill in the blank” lab report for my SPED (special-ed) and ELL (English language learners)!
-I give written feedback on every assignment I hand back.
-I’m available at any hour of the day for tutoring or help in person, over email or even by phone. The kids have all my info, for real.
-I allow practically unlimited time for turning in assignments. I accept any and all late work up until the day before grades are due.
-I allow for revisions: If a kid is not happy with his/her grade, they can revise their work (based on my feedback) and re-submit it.
-I assign work that is within their reach with realistic timelines (I think), such as “write a paragraph on whether or not the BRCA gene should be patented, using my given topic sentence”.
So, what do you guys think? What do I need to change? How can I up my passing rates without compromising my ethics and just pushing kids through? My grade team had a discussion around broken grading practices and how to fix them last monday. I need to continue the discussion. Please help.
In the meantime, here’s what I wore today, pencil in hair, sinister smile and all.
shirt: madewell – belt: j.crew – jeans: bdg – socks: juicy couture (gift from my sister years ago) – boots: steve madden – necklace: my popo via mommy