Monday, November 23, 2009

Rookie Mistakes

I made my first big rookie mistake today. It was one of those sounds-great-at-the-time things that ended up probably being more work for me than my students.

On Friday, I gave all 3 of my classes review sheets with the repeated phrase, quiz on Monday. Now, I always give out a review sheet the day before the test and unless I specifically put in their calendar that there is a 2 day study period, it is just a 1 day deal.

My Coop kids walked in and did pretty well on theirs in both classes. My law students...well not so much. Most of them thought the quiz was Tuesday (uh, hello??? Said it several times that quiz was Monday!) Where the mistake you ask? My brain fired up and my mouth responded before I had time to process what my brain was concocting. Here is how it went.

ME: How many people would like one more review day?
STUDENTS: 90% raise hands.
ME: Here's the deal. If you want to take the quiz today, you may take it. If you wait until tomorrow, it will be a much harder quiz. How many of you want to wait till tomorrow? 
STUDENTS: 80% raise their hands.
ME: Okay. How many people want to take the easier quiz today? If you do, please move to the front of the room. Those of you waiting until tomorrow pull out your study guides and move to the back of the classroom.
STUDENTS: 6 students move to the front of the room.

Did you catch it? Yeah, that was more work I created for myself. Fantastic KB! You've cleared your plate for the rest of the week except for grading quizzes, review guides and timesheets and you create MORE work for yourself! Geez!

Now, some of those kids did get 100% on the quiz. Some got D's. I am offering those folks who stepped up a chance at a retake of the quiz tomorrow if they did not like their grade. It's only fair after all. The new quizzes are all typed and copied for tomorrow. An extra 12 questions and 2-3 extra credit instead of 5. (The extra credit consists of terms from earlier in the year to start "reviewing" for the final in January).

The plus side of this scenario is that now I don't have to figure out what video to show on Wednesday. Sweet! The other plus is that I've got the unit on Renting nearly finished for when we come back from break. All I have to do is write the review guide and choose quiz questions. 

I think I may do a review game for the next chapter and make them do the review guide for homework. Force them to study (or copy) answers from their books and notes. I think my game of choice may be good for them. There is only 1 way to find out...

I'm once again off to sleep. What a long day. Teaching. Meeting. Workout. Long phone calls. At least it is Thanksgiving week. And I am thankful for a 4 day weekend!

G'nite y'all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Importance of Making Others Important

I realized tonight the great responsibility teachers have. I'm not talking about what we do every day in the classroom. I'm talking about the stuff we do outside the classroom.

This week alone (and it's only Tuesday) I've done some things that I'm beginning to realize are extraordinary in this town. 

For example, I just got home from the 1st Orchestra concert of the year. I have 3 students in orchestra, 2 in Law and 1 in Coop. The three of them represent a variety of learning styles and aptitudes. That's the beautiful thing about music. At any rate, I went to the concert tonight. What I was expecting was a packed auditorium, just like it was when I was in high school or at Sandburg & Hinsdale Central. But here, there was a sprinkling of parents. I didn't see a single person I recognized, including teachers. My heart fell when I entered that room. 

What Urbana is lacking in a major way is support of its students. There are probably 60-80 students in orchestra. There were probably 25 pairs of people there. Really? Even parents don't display support of their children. I understand that many of them may be at work, as this is a working class town, but I have the feeling that many of them just needed a break or had other children to be with. What of the rest of the community? 

This is where my marketing brain fires up. Did they put posters around the community? Was there even a way for the folks detached from the high school to know this was going on? The orchestra teacher is very talented. She definitely showed compassion for her students. I think she talked to them as though they were still in the classroom though. She told them to be quiet. She told them to clean up the stage. She told them how to get on and off the stage "as we practiced." If teachers are the role models and this was a big event, the students need to see us outside of the room we sit in every day and how to role model behavior that demonstrates that in public, in a different forum, things proceed differently. She treated them like they were in the classroom so I think some of them acted like they were in the classroom. After all, many of their parents were not there so who else would keep them in check?

The other thing I did was yesterday. I have 3 students still looking for jobs. I walked the entire mall last night (1.5 hours) and got every job application I could get and inquired to see who was hiring and who had completed the search for holiday workers. (I did skip the maternity stores and jewelry stores). I told both classes of my findings. It was up to them to peek at the applications, tell me which ones they may want to copy and turn in (to the store) or to come see me in my office to get a copy. One of the 3 took up the offer. Another didn't budge. The third was absent for the 5th day in a row. I've also arranged a large number of volunteer hours so that students can get volunteer extra credit (It is work after all). They of course don't see the fact that I'm going to spending HOURS at these locations doing gift wrap or that they are only signing up for an hour or two. Even the ones who desperately need hours aren't signing up (except my one student who took an application). I'm going to have to make it mandatory for the other 2. 

I think one of my goals is going to have to push for greater parent and community involvement in what I do. Or what my students do. It is just so sad to walk into a building where artists, athletes and other talent is being displayed to a little, tiny audience. Time shall have to tell....

For now, I've taken the night 'off' and have just 6 more items to complete before Thanksgiving Break. Then it's DVD time. More on that at a later date.

Stay dry folks! I'm heading to sleep....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Parent Teacher Conferences - Day 1

Yesterday is what some have called the longest day of the year. Parent Teacher Conferences at Urbana run from 4-8 on Thursday and then today, Friday, from 8-11. What that does is give us 1.5 days of work on Thursday and a half day on Friday.  I think I'd rather go all night long then have no work today, but as it is, I'm going to get to work at 8 instead of 7:30 today.

I had 3 scheduled parents yesterday and 1 pop-in parent. My parents are generally half A/B students and half D/F students. My first parent (guardian actually) really just wanted to know how to get her son's grades up. He's slowly increasing his grades in my law class. The conference was quick and pretty good. The 2nd one was a pop in for a A student. His mom is great at keeping him on task. Hopefully he'll take what his mom is teaching him and use it someday in real life. For now, I just had to explain to him that what he learns now is really for future benefit. And the fact that he gets a class like law in high school is really lucky. We didn't have classes that prepped us for the future when I was in high school. Unless you count home ec and econ.

My 3rd parent was for another A student. I had little to share with them outside of what I said to them at Open House. He's a really involved student with great parents and is one of my few true, honest-to-goodness hard workers.

My 4th set of parents were for a Coop student who hasn't really done any work and still hasn't gotten a job (the only 1).  She stepped up this week but the toughest part with this conference was that the students wanted to know how she got into the Coop program! I had to explain that that decision was made in the spring and that hopefully the counselors had made the right decision. They did not like the fact that their daughter, who they felt was a bit irresponsible, was in a program where she could get out of school early. Overall, I expressed what needed to be done so that she could pass and it ended well. 

Today I have 4 more conferences. Update when I can. I'm heading to Chicago so it may be a few days till an update! 

Stay smart.