Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Classes Discover that Mr. D is Serious about Learning

For my freshmen students, they experienced their first unit test this past week, and for many it was a wake-up call for the new learning environment called 'high school.' Up until Tuesday they had completed in-class activities consisting of worksheets, videos, quizzes, and guided discussion. One week prior to the test I announced that the unit test was a measure of everything put forth in the first three weeks, stressing how important it was for them to allocate time for study and review. I also explained that the test would provide me with insight on my ability to teach the concepts and for them to retain it. When I distributed the test on Wednesday it was a moment of truth for many in those four classes for the realization that they didn't invest the time nor the effort for study, and there was a realization that Mr. D was serious about what he was doing.

I spent Wednesday evening correcting all of the tests and logging scores onto Skyward, knowing that some students would see their cumulative grade plummet from an A to a D or F. It was tough to see that happen, but it would provide an opportunity for another learning moment about life. Some students had done quite nicely and their efforts were rewarded with scores which reinforced prior high marks. No sooner had school begun on Thursday morning when the first e-mail arrived from a concerned parent..."Jimmy went from having an A yesterday to showing an F today. Something must be wrong." Once students began arriving to the classroom there were similar moments of displeasure and disbelief..."How could I have possibly gone from an A to a D- in one day?"

Thursday's class was the moment I'd been waiting for and I had the attention of 100% of my students during the entire 45-minutes of class time. I explained their school's policy on Formative and Summative Assessment and how it was weighted for testing. I reviewed the policy on Retake Exams and how they had an opportunity to reverse the damage of one blown exam. But most of all I put forth my assurances to them that NONE of them were stupid and without hope...for I believed that each of them had the ability to succeed providing they would allocate time for studying the material and completing assignments on time. "This is your wake-up call for the semester. If you don't understand something, you need to take responsibility for your actions by speaking up, either during class or when you have time to stop in and see me." We discussed test strategies and the benefit of using time after the test to re-check their work.

I can always tell whether my students 'got it' by looking into their eyes, and this was one of those occasions when I knew that 100% of them heard and saw it for what it was. At one point in the exchange, I asked every student to look me in the eyes at the same time in order to convey their acceptance of my message. As the final explanation point on the day, I told my class that unless they chose to make positive changes in their approach to academics, I would begin getting their parents involved in the conversation as well. It was then that you could hear a pin drop from the back of the room. Message received AND GOTTEN!

Friday was a new day at school and for many of them a new start to their class. Notebooks and pencils were engaged like never before, and there was a rejuvenation of good learning taking place. Once Monday rolls around I'll be curious as to whether they will retain these new traits...or if some will resort to prior habits. If so, I'll be there to reinforce in a positive way which will demonstrate my commitment to their ongoing learning.

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