Saturday, January 1, 2011


Today I got my third holiday greeting from a student by email. First two were around the 25th from sweet studious girls. Not surprisingly. Today it was from a much tougher student, P, who failed my class first term due to severe lack of work turned in. Second term he started off with a bang (and was SO PROUD to have an A after about 2 weeks) but then missed a bunch of school and stopped doing any work and currently has a low F. Anyway, the message is:

H A P P Y ' NEWYEARS missss [Pippi] - have a goodONE &' take it easyy . OH & i was suppost to tell yuu Merry Christmas but i wasnt around a computer , sorry / but i just wanna wish you and your family the best & take a easy :] !

Of course I wrote back saying thanks and wishing him well and telling him to enjoy the rest of break because I'm going to make his life miserable in January so he can pass second term. Ha.

Resolutions for school

I think I will start class on Tuesday (our first day back from break) with a mini-lesson about resolutions. I'd like to present my planned crackdown on procedures and rules as "Ms. Pippi's Resolutions" and then I will ask the kids to make their own list of resolutions related to school. At the beginning of the year I had kids write goals but I never followed up with them - in fact I think that only some of my classes actually did it - but I would like to write resolutions and then find a way to follow up with them at the beginning of each month. Although maybe that's not a good idea if I fail on my own resolutions. Not sure if I want a monthly chance for kids to gloat that they STILL aren't doing their do nows or whatever I resolve to make my priorities for January.

Anyway, I'm brainstorming ideas about what my priorities will be. There are plenty of things that aren't going as well as I'd like them to, but I need to find some that I can actually tackle, and hopefully that will give me good payoff for the effort involved on my part. Some ideas:
  1. Routines to start class. Kids come late and though I have some penalties for tardiness (sign in, then you are theoretically supposed to make up the time with me after school) they are not effective and I haven't been following through very well - plus kids have started to take my 2-5 minute grace period (longer or shorter depending on where kids are coming from) as a freedom to not even try to be in the room when the bell rings. Furthermore, kids are flat out not doing the Do Now, and I spend the first 5 minutes of class cajoling kids to take out their homework and at least READ what's on the board. Clearly this area needs some work.
  2. Homework. I give it every day, and some kids do it religiously, but a lot of others do it sporadically, and some kids never do it. It's 20% of their grade so this is part of the reason some kids are failing. And I often assume that kids get extra practice on this so that they will be ready for quizzes but kids who don't do it obviously don't get that practice. Also there is blatant, blatant copying going on.
  3. Uniform policy enforcement. Kids are supposed to have a school polo shirt and khaki pants on all day, every day. Kids take them off throughout the day and have a plethora of excuses. I spend a lot of energy telling kids to put their khaki pants back on (usually over their jeans, since that appears to be the preferred way to wear them). I would like this to be less of a struggle.
  4. Make up work. I need a better system for making kids aware of what they missed and getting them to actually do it. This is also a big contributor to some of my kids' failing grades. My existing policy of "ask somebody what you missed and get it done within a week" is not working.
  5. Student participation. My school district gave out a student survey for every kid in every class and one thing I ranked low on (rightfully so) is calling on different kids. I mostly let kids volunteer to answer questions and it tends to be the same few kids doing it all the time. I have popsicle sticks with kids' names on them but I haven't used them much this year. One of my classes consistently complains that I treat them like little kids so maybe the sticks are too babyish for high school, but I need some way of calling on kids with some semblance of randomness.
  6. Rigor in class discussions. I'd like to spend more time talking about lab results and the conclusions we can draw from them, but I'm not sure how to make class discussions productive when only a few kids will talk and while that is happening most of the other kids are either zoned out, doing distracting things (talking about other things, out of their seats, etc). I have more success getting kids to stay on task when I am asking them to do something productive than when I am trying to hold a whole-class discussion together, but reading and writing skills are too weak (and/or kids are too lazy) to do much rigorous science on their own or in small groups - so whole-class discussions are my most promising idea to get more in depth about the science content.
In reality I don't think I can change all of this. At least not this school year. I have to figure out what I can actually work towards in January and then figure out how to clue kids in about my new plans and expectations.