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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Failing class should be painful and hard, not the easiest thing to do.

"If you are going to fail, do it quietly."

I have not only heard this statement many times, but I have been guilty of thinking it myself. There are many things at play here and a possibility of endless discussions, but I want to focus on one point. Why do we not make it harder on struggling students than those that perform well?
I have been plagued with this thought the past few weeks as I prepare anew. Each year I take on a new challenge, this year I have decided that this will be my focus. I am still not totally sure what I am going to do, as will be shown in this piece, but I am prepared to make some changes and set up procedures for those that are not doing as well in class.
First off I need to point out that I worked at risk for many years and that this subject is important to me. I believe that each and every student has it in them to succeed and do well. That being said, many students have difficulties in some part of their life; whether it be home, social, a disability, etc... As a teacher we wield some influence but there are so many things going on in these kid's lives it is hard to have much more influence than the time they are in our rooms. For some that is enough, for others they need more. Much more. Yet it is this very group that fits the quote about failing quietly. Look I get it, we put our efforts where they are best utilized, we want to be effective, we want to help those that appreciate it, we realize that we are not going to be able to help every student, and some of these students are really hard to work with and just don't seem to care.
The problem in my class is there is no protocol for students who perform poorly. It is more of the better luck next time, you need to try harder, you need to study next time attitude. You see there is nothing that students would want to avoid or sacrifice like an extra assignment, early morning or after school study sessions, lunch time reviews, etc...My new thought is that I want to make it painful to fail my class, not easy. Just like earning an A is a badge of honor, I want it to be hard to fail. Failing should be the hardest thing to do in my class, not the easiest.
So here is where the protocols and procedures need to be put into place. This is where I am struggling and seeking advice. My first inclination is that if a student does poorly on an assignment, they will have to redo the assignment in order to receive some sort of increase in credit for it. I am not sure if I want to make it full credit or just an increase of some sort percentage wise. If a student does poorly on a quiz or test they will have to come in before school and fix the ones they missed. They won't get full credit, but they will receive an increase in percentage of their score. I am considering doing lunch time and after school reviews as well, just not sure how to implement these.
Note: these measures are mandatory. Again the point is to reward those that work hard and make it painful for those that don't. There is a lot to consider here and I think have lunch time and before and after school reviews will be the type of sacrifices that students will want to avoid. If you do a good job and study you are rewarded with a good grade and also exempt yourself from sacrificing before/after/lunch times to come in and do work.
Another thought is to have them reteach a section to the class they did poorly on. So if you prove mastery through assignments, quizzes, tests, portfolio, project you don't have to get up in front of the class and teach it. I think teaching it shows mastery and gets rid of the tediousness of redoing a past assignment/quiz/test. So if you don't do well you will have to really know it to teach it to everyone. I could use the lunch/before/after school times to prepare them. This is me thinking out loud. I am open for suggestions. Join the conversation. Let's make it painful for kids to fail, not easy.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post! This is a tough problem, and one that was faced by my old school, where many students failed to turn in homework, and so the administration wanted to implement a 'no-zero' policy to encourage teachers to get more creative with getting the students to master the material rather than seeing a line of zeroes in their gradebook. Many teachers found keeping students after school (dubbed "Homework Club") to be helpful for the reason you surmised above: students will work harder to avoid having to work outside of class time. Nonetheless, one problem that we discovered was that some students ended up committed to multiple teachers because they were doing poorly in multiple subjects, so they became overwhelmed because the root of the problem wasn't addressed: many of these students do not know how to manage their time or study well. In those particular cases, more time needs to be spent understanding why a student is doing poorly across the board. Lastly, I would suggest you look into Standards Based Grading - you may find helpful ideas on reassessments. Looking forward to hearing more!