November 29, 2011

Wits and Knowledge

I was so looking forward to these three weeks of solid instruction between Thanksgiving Break and Winter Break, as the month of November is always a gigantic, fragmented mess. You would think that I would have been more prepared, but no, I've been flying by the seat of my pants. Luckily, these pants were made for flying.

What? You say it's only Tuesday? No matter. I'm going day by day. Tomorrow I'll be super prepared because this afternoon, I pulled the PowerPoint and support materials onto my desktop for easy access, as opposed to searching for it in my 20-gig drive 10 minutes before class, like I've done the last two days.

Ah, hahaha, I'm not really that bad off. I did sit down with the other English teacher during one prep last week so we could write our lesson plans, but sometimes writing them is not enough. Sometimes other preparation is necessary--like reviewing the material to see I truly remember it myself.

And that's where the winged trousers come in. I have had no time to study what I'm going to teach. How pleased I was to realize that with a PowerPoint outline (created some time in the past) and a stout cup of coffee, I was more than capable of lecturing to my students yesterday and giving guided practice today. With all the breaks and madness of the last month, it felt good to just teach. In fact, the last two days, I'd say I was in the zone.

(I hope my supervisor felt that vibe when she came in for her first (surprise!) observation yesterday!)

November 3, 2011

Not Good Enough

This morning, as I began checking off which students turned in their first novel journals, an assignment due yesterday, I started to get increasingly agitated. This was just looking at the formatting, which is not even included in the assessment, but it was included in the instructions.

So what do I do? It is inappropriate to deduct points for papers submitted in pencil rather than in ink or typed, as I requested. I also do not like deducting points because the header is incorrect, although for this assignment, the header listed book, author, and number of pages read, all of which are important. However, the other irritant, papers that did not have paragraphing, is absolutely something that could be marked down, and was actually a part of the rubric.

Rather than get my blood pressure up, I opened up my drawer, took out my REDO* stamp (a first for this year), and started stamping away.

When the students came into class, I told them how irritated I was with the quality of work handed in and rather than complaining about how impossible they were with their other teachers during lunch or starting to hate them a little, I decided to just have them redo the assignments. No, I wasn't mad. They weren't quite in trouble yet, but they also had no choice but to resubmit the assignment because until they do, it is recorded in the gradebook as an incomplete, which I count as an F grade.

They took it maturely. I saw a few light bulbs go off when I articulated why I had been expecting multiple paragraphs. (I'm starting to have doubts about their organizational abilities!) Nobody argued that they had turned in their best work, and in fact, several looked rather sheepish when I approached them with their papers saying, "Formatting aside, is this really your best work? Do you think you might want to look at the overall quality before you turn it in again?" Thank goodness not one student groaned at the thought of having to redo an assignment--that would have ignited my ire for sure. Still it surprised me that there wasn't at least one.

I have a pretty good group of students this year, but I think they are starting to lose momentum. I don't blame them for testing the waters to see how little they can get away with. It's a good lesson for all of us today. I spent most of the day returning the assignments to be redone when I could have spent time scoring the assignments--an exasperating waste of time if you look at one way. I hope that this small act sets a new concept in class: do it well or do it over.

*I had this stamp made at VistaPrint. They often offer "free" supplies and you pay the postage. A lot of teachers have blogged about creative ways to use this company. Do a search--you'll see!