Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Good News

This week I finished sending a good news card to every student's home address. My school has little postcards I can send out with a note about something positive a student did in my class. I started the second week of school, and I was determined to find something good to report about every one before the end of the year. It's not that it took me this long to find something about everyone; it's that it took me this long to find the time to finish up!

Last Friday, I had three seniors in danger of failing sit down and do enough work to move themselves out of the danger zone. I asked them who they'd like me to call to brag, and each was ready with a name. Ending my week such positive interactions with parents made it a little easier for me to spend less mental energy on school over the weekend. And each of the students, for whom attendance is usually an issue, were back the next class to continue building on their work.

I want to remember to make a new academic year resolution for August to find more times to praise my students to their parents and other people in their lives who matter to them. It's amazing what a simple note or phone call home can do -- especially for a kid who doesn't often get positive communication from school.

Teacher friends, what works for you to encourage students? And does your heart break at that moment when you call home with good news and you can tell the parent is expecting more bad news?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week

Hi, friends! Thanks for all of the teacher love we've all been feeling this week! The good folks at Donors Choose have set up a match code you can use all week to give to our classroom and have your gift matched. Just enter TREAT when you donate. I don't have any specific projects open right now, but I plan on doing a big book order once I get to know my new students in the fall, so a gift card would really help.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, May 6, 2013

No More Late Work 2.0

From the beginning of my teaching career, I've wanted to be flexible with deadlines. Allowing students to choose to do the work makes it more meaningful to them. Attempts to punish students for turning work in late haven't worked. Understanding what we're working toward as a big goal broken into small bits that students get to at their own pace seems like a classroom culture that mirrors what happens outside of school.

But I'm not sure I was being as intentional about this ethic as I should have been. My students in higher-level classes started abusing the privilege especially, and many ended last quarter with low grades as a result of not turning in a major paper I had broken into smaller assignments for them.

So, I'm trying something new. I'll still take late work. I don't promise to grade it within a week as with work turned in on time. And I will only take it late with an accompanying paragraph explaining why the work is late. I told students that forgetting is an acceptable answer, but they have to explain why they forgot. The same with simply choosing not to do it in order to focus on other priorities. So far, I've had good results in that more work is coming in at the original deadline, and I've seen some focused reflections that I think will help me organize my own practice to meet student needs a little better. For example, a couple of students asked for some modifications to the writing workshop checklist.

For those of you in the classroom right now, what's working to get this end of the year work in? What isn't? What worked for you when you were in school?