This, My Friend, Is Learning

I really do attribute the frustration I felt in my last post to the change in weather. I felt a lot better the next day. Also, I was put on another team. Yay another meeting! (insert pom poms and back flips). We've now started student support teams. I am on the freshman/sophomore team since I mostly teach underclassmen. It actually turned out to be the most productive team I've been on yet and we've only had one meeting.

We look at data to see which students have 5 or more absences and who are failing. Then, as a team made up of teachers, administrators, guidance counselor, coaches, and social worker, we brainstorm. We compare student behaviors in different classrooms and collaborate on ways to connect with the student, get them involved and engaged, and hopefully create some new positive experiences at school. I felt hopeful because we talked about some of the students I was so frustrated with previously.

I recommend you go back and read the comments from my last post. What I took from them is to focus on the positive and that will change my outlook which will influence the classroom culture. Also, I know that I have improved 100% in my teaching since last year and I am offering my students the very best of me.  It is their choice to learn. I will do my best to influence that choice while accepting that I can't make it for them. And when they are ready to learn, I will still be teaching at a 100% better level than before.

Another positive thing that I did was to have a discussion with the class that I dread the most. We talked about other teachers they like and learn from and what I gathered is that I need to do a better job of breaking things down step by step. I also need to give students more chances to do examples in front of me during class so I can correct and redirect. (I threw that in just to rhyme. My flow is getting rusty.)  I have not been assigning homework. We decided that if I assign 2-5 problems a day, I still will not letter grade them but I will check for completion. We will go over the problems in class so students can correct their mistakes. If you get 3 zero's which is basically 3 missing assignments, you get a written office referral. This is a rule that other teachers enforce which I'm not sure I was aware of, but that seems to work for the students. They agreed that the amount of problems was low enough that there really was no reason not to do it. And once again, the consistency monster roared it's head. They liked classes where the teacher did what they said they would do and enforced the rule at 3 missing assignments- no more, no less.

What I am learning from all of this productive frustration is that, I need these feelings. Enduring these feelings is helping me get to the place I need to be in order to really implement classroom management. It is helping me to distance myself from taking every hit personally. I can now be more objective and stay firm.

This is the way we are doing things. Each choice has a consequence. You decide. You live with the consequence. You suck it up and take it like a big kid.

If you don't like it, make another choice. If you do like it, then keep making the same choice.

This, my friend, is learning.


  1. I'm glad you talked with your students and that they convinced you to pay attention to their homework. If it doesn't matter enough to you for you to even look at, why should it matter to them?

    Your students seem to be wiser about motivation than those who taught you to ignore homework.

  2. It's not that I was ignoring homework, it's that I wasn't assigning any. We've been doing everything together in class.

    I don't like that you're implying that I'm ignoring things or that other people aren't wise because they disagree with your homework philosophy. It's been proven that homework is not effective and people that find other avenues of motivation are not any less intelligent than those who swear by homework.

  3. I struggle with homework too, and actually considering changing my syllabus to say practice problems, because that is really what they are.

    The students that want to do well, will do the homework. There are students that do the homework and still won't do well, because they don't make the connections. And there are students that won't do a lick of homework, some will do ok in class, others will bomb; I am including in this group those students that copy answers from the back of the book or their friends.

    So because we are both struggling with HW, I will share with you what I do. Take it for what you think it is worth.

    I probably check if students do their HW every other day. I ask them to put it on the corner of their desk while they do the warm-up, and I just mark on my attendance roster whether or not it is complete. I can see that from a quick look. I mark in powerschool whether or not the student has done it, with no point value attached.

    Then once a chapter I pick 4-6 problems to spot check the problems, I call it a HW Check. The students have to copy these problems from their HW to a sheet that has the problems listed. They are only allowed to have the HW out on their desk...books closed on the floor. I give the students a 2 points if they have done the problem and got it correct, 1 pt if they did it and got it wrong (or they did the wrong problem), 0 pts if the box is left blank.

    I do still struggle with this, but this is what the rest of the department does and I am a new teacher at this school, so I don't want to rock the boat too much. I have kind of come to grips with it because it is only worth 10% of their grade, but I am still not sure I even agree with this.

    I went about 4 weeks without giving a HW check and just did one this week. I have yet to grade it. There are students that have figured out that they don't really count a whole lot in the scheme of things (compared to 20% for Quizzes and 40% Tests). There are students that take them as seriously as quizzes or tests, and then there are the students that wouldn't care either way.

    I am sure that I will eventually figure it out, and I do struggle with the HW Check, but right now I am not sure what else to do. I would love to do more in class assessments, but I have been told to pick up the pace and I am doing about 1 lesson per day, without much time for in class work.

  4. I must have misunderstood what you posted, and I apologize for that.

    If you weren't assigning homework, then you were telling the students that everything they needed to do would happen in the classroom. Was that working for them? Did they need outside practice? How much outside practice did they need? How could they tell how much practice they needed?

  5. I've been talking to my students quite a bit about the intrinsic value of education. It's interesting to hear their responses. Most of the time, if they think you are willing to listen to them, they'll share things that were completely off my radar.

    We talked about how some of the classes in high school are meant to provide a well-rounded education so there are options after graduation (in case minds are changed, you understand). I asked if we should changed that particular thought process and only put them in classes that they would deem "useful" at this point in time.

    Almost all of them said no.


    So I'm learning to ask questions and then really listen to their responses. That is, after all, what they expect from me. Right?

  6. Crys,

    I did take time out to stop and ask the students a ton of questions. I asked them how they felt this class was going, how they felt about notes, tests, grading, homework, etc. I was surprised at how most responded that we needed more homework and notes and that I was doing too much in class that they should be doing themselves.

    I am always impressed at how productive it is to just have really great conversation. If I could have it my way, I wouldn't even teach math, I would just teach life all the time. Where does that kind of position exist? lol