Oh, my. It’s hard to get back up to full speed! Maybe I’m wiped out because we start almost an hour earlier each day now, and we finish teaching 10 minutes later each day than last year. It was a 65+ hour week. At least my students and I are finally finished with our goal setting, skills checklists, beginning keyboarding tests, introducing ourselves, and have started registering students on Think.com. We start our first official projects there next week–blogging and posting PowerPoint shows. Think is first and foremost meant to be a learning space, but my kids just love it and see it as pure fun. And it’s one of the very few social sites that is not filtered in my district. (We can get very few sites that contain the words blog, podcast, vlog, streaming audio or video, ‘tube, photo sharing, social networking, etc.) Anyway, I think you’ll like what the students are doing. For instance, take a look at a few of their “Introduce Yourself!” slideshows at www.d11.org/mann/computerliteracy. I should have them posted in a few days. The idea came from Dan Meyer’s “4 Slides” contest on his blog, “dy/dan.” He was kind enough to let me steal the project for my 7th and 8th graders.
We had the debate(s) this week at a staff development about everyone pulling their load and supporting school achievement, which typically devolves into an Electives versus Academic Cores gang war. Relations between the two get a little better each year but the issues rear their ugly heads every so often. Can’t we accept that each of us have overflowing plates even if an elective teacher’s plate looks different than an academic teacher’s plate? Nobody has it easy in education, but we’re (mostly) all dedicated and glad to be there. I’m just saying that a little diplomacy would go a long way. Do you friends out there have this tension in your buildings? What a waste of energy.
Then there was the debate over grading. Pure grading, 95/5 grading, retesting, assigning tutoring and study halls so NO STUDENT GETS A D or F, ad nauseum. I have some real discomfort in this area. I’ve decided to revise my grading system as follows: 90% of the course grade will be for assessments upon which the student has had multiple opportunities to prove proficiency. (In my class it’s almost all performance assessments since we’re working with tech projects.) The other 10% will be for all other assignments. We will no longer “grade” things like being prepared for class, returning required UA’s, etc. That will all be recorded under Citizenship marks. I do agree with that and I feel terrible that I had somehow devolved into having a few of those kinds of grades.
My real fear is that we may never resolve the problem of getting students who won’t do their jobs to pass. I’m ecstatic to help a kid who can’t do his or her job. And yes, there are some we can influence with coaching, support, firmness, consequences, etc. I like to think I’m a decent teacher and students like to come to my computer classes. But there are still the types who won’t work … It still looks as if I’ll have to give endless study halls, detentions, and the like — on my own time — because ZEROES AND GRADES BELOW C AREN’T PERMITTED. None. Zip. Nada. I am agitated and confused as to how to implement these policies. My school has a fully staffed Z.A.P. room during the day for catching up D’s and F’s, but it happens during the students’ elective time period, so we can’t send kids to it without them missing our own class. Hopefully I can sort it out in the next few weeks because right now I feel that 10% of the students (non-performers) will get 90% of my energy. I’m sure some rest will help.