Woe is me

I don’t know how many of you are able to blog so often. I am struggling to stay on top of things because I’ve changed so many things from last year and I am still trying to iron things out.

Things I’m struggling with:

  1. After speaking with other teachers before classes started this year, we all felt that students showing up late to classes due to staying over in others was becoming an issue. I decided to do my part to get students out as soon as the class ends. But, I have several students in every class each time I assess who don’t finish and want to know why they can’t finish. I know the quiz should only take a student who knows what they are doing about 20 minutes. Obviously, these students have no clue and it shows on their scores. My struggle is: If it doesn’t matter how long it takes a student to learn something, why does it matter how long it takes them to show me what they know? And I know I’ve sort of already answered my own question, but I still feel guilty saying to them that they need to turn in what they have done and not worry about what they didn’t finish – they’ll have other opportunities to show me.
  2. I know that number 1 is a result of the same issue almost everyone else has blogged about recently: Students are just chasing scores like they’ve always chased points. I don’t know how to change that culture despite all the discussions we’ve had about what the point of this new system is meant to do for them. They’re still playing the system. Now, I’m not making it easy on them, but they are still just going through the motions because it is the mandate I’ve established. I actually had a student (a 10th grade male, btw) start crying in class the other day because he didn’t understand why his answer alone didn’t give him full credit for the skill. His work made no sense mathematically, but in the end, he ended up with the answer, by mistake. To him, that was all that mattered. And his argument was that they are just learning how to pass the SAT and all that matters on that is that you get the correct answer. I took the time to explain to all of them that I wasn’t teaching them how to pass a test, to only worry about the answer, or to only find a way to get a 4. I told them I was only concerned with them being able to apply the skills in various circumstances and prove to me that they really understand what the skills mean and when and where to use them. I see this as a long and hard road…
  3. I have way too many students who want me to grade their quizzes after each question (i.e. – tell me I’m doing it right). I often feel like I’m being too evasive in my answers to keep them from being able get the points due to my help rather than because of their own understanding. “I have a question. Wait, if you tell me the answer to that, are you going to take points off? Oh, never mind. I’ll just try it myself.” Part of this is because I know to a T that they are chasing points and I won’t give in. But, I also know that with some help, they could show me a little more of what they know than they are able to show without the help. I can’t make those decisions on the fly because too many of them are asking for help each assessment. So, I stick to clarifications.
  4. So, I’m obviously assessing too quickly or they don’t know how to self assess. I teach the lesson, show examples, and have them work on more examples while I go around and answer questions. Apparently getting that help and getting the answer means they know what they are doing. All done. Give me my points. Based on their responses and in-class work, I don’t feel like I’m assessing too quickly. Is this just more of number 2 rearing its ugly head? In fact, I feel like I am going way slower than last year just to make sure that they know what they are doing. Maybe too slow and they are loosing interest?
  5. I am required to give mid-term progress reports. But, I have tracking sheets that I have them fill in after I pass back each graded assessment. They know where they stand. But, they still want a grade. They want a grade on each assessment for that matter. Their grades are all that matter because that’s what colleges care about – is it? I decided to just ignore the progress reports this quarter since any grade I contrive to show how many skills they’ve mastered, or failed to master, doesn’t mean the same thing. A few parents, and many students, have called me out on it. I’ve responded with my reasons and further explanations. This despite having given an explanation when the year started and posting it online for them to see anytime they wish. Am I going to be able to continue fighting a fight they just don’t seem to care about or realize needs to be fought?
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