I went from a Substitute Teacher trying to work and study my way into the wonderful world of being a credentialed teacher to a District Intern trying to do the same. I'm a teacher, jumping life hurdles as I continue to learn to teach and teach to learn.
Sometimes, I truly believe in thanking my students with treats like cookies and donuts. Yeah, yeah, save me the lesson on childhood obesity, heart disease, dangers of high cholesterol, and all that stuff (besides, I live and lived all that, but that is a whole other story).
And this is where I learned that perhaps some awards can be taken for granted.
When my second period class was observed by our high school principal, my students behaved their natural selves. 9th graders. Those who always talked, talked; those who naturally get out of their seats got out of those seats; and those who usually sit quietly sat quietly.
For the most part, they behaved and even when my back was turned, the Principal was surprised at how well they behaved. In noticing this he praised my 2nd period class and the next day, after the day’s lesson, I served them donuts. They thanked me and went on their nutrition break when the bell rang.
That is how it was and should be, right?
So when the Career Center Director commended my 5th period on their behavior and having to never had such a group of well-behaved students, I rewarded my students with cookies.
Students tossed grapes across the class at a girl, and the next thing I knew grapes were all over my classes.
ME: Is someone going to take responsibility for these grapes?
I suspected three students, three that I felt were improving in my class, three students whom I expected to admit to their faults.
Of course not. Am I a fool for giving them the benefit of the doubt? ABSOLUTELY. But I did not punish one student. Nope. I decided this class just needed to be taught…differently.
I told my students to return to their seats and to start taking notes. Upon reflection, I realized, that perhaps I should have served the cookies toward the end of class and not allow them to “relax.”
Something like this happened last year, on my birthday.
And so, with my broken-heart, as I picked up the grapes, realized that treats and rewards can be distributed differently.
Just not to fifth period.
I decided to teach my fifth period differently. Same lesson, less rewards, and just work and notes. I said that before, I am sure, but I think this heart is tired of learning the same old lesson and repeating the same mistakes.
This is me, learning as I go along.
The grading period for the second progress report ends this Friday and my students have been working on a student biography for two weeks. I had them practice creating interview questions, practice the interview process by engaging in something similar to speed dating (don’t ask how I know what speed dating is like, and I definitely did not want to know how my students knew what speed dating is), and I had students interview another student in class (pairs were created by me) for the student biography writing assignment.
I mean, I get it…
I had them engage in the writing process. Brainstorming, pre-writing, outlining, creating a draft, and today…The PERFECT paper.
So, what IS The PERFECT paper?
No contractions. (STUDENT: Why can’t I use contractions? ME: Because you do not use them properly and it makes you a stronger writer to not use contractions.)
No use of white out.
No scratches or crossing out (they already do that on their drafts).
The paper has a title.
The student included the proper heading: name, date, and class period.
Black or dark blue ink (when I say blue ink, they think baby blue ink is proper).
It is considered a rough draft IF the final paper has any of the above.
I encourage errors and mistakes when they respond to journal assignments, work on anything that does not require formal writing, and quick responses. How else is a writer going to learn and improve their skills?
Many students asked permission to type the paper.
Type? Nope. WE write. I do not want my students to simply…
Even THIS happened…
ME: I enjoy seeing you guys work hard and go through this process.
STUDENT: You like seeing us go through this torture.
ME: That too!
ME: I torture you with knowledge. KNOWLEDGE. I would not torture you with this if I did not think you can handle it.
Plus, well, my High School teacher, Mr. Vetrano, put me through this SAME torture for the SAME reason.
Oh, and this happened…
STUDENT: Miss, I was in World History and I wrote a contraction down and then I quickly erased it because I can hear you yelling at me.
I had a student TRY to slam the door (instead he kicked the door) because I sent him back to rewrite the imperfect paper. I appreciated this reaction. He worked hard and to his potential. This SHOWED it! Truth is I may put my students through this struggle and process, but how else will they understand that with practice makes perfect? How else will they understand that working hard makes the grade?
And though I allowed the students to talk, for the most part, they got the work done. I had a room filled of students like this:
The PERFECT paper is NOT perfect. The PERFECT paper appears to be perfect, and that attempt, THAT struggle, makes that student a writer. Makes that student understand what it feels like to make the grade.
They all have succeeded.
Their PERFECT paper IS perfect. And now they know what I mean when I ask them to create the PERFECT paper.
We will go through this again before I get them to focus on the upcoming technology assignments. Yup. Technology.