I sat correcting journals this week end and was reflecting on the quality of the work that lay in front of me. Honestly, it wasn’t very good. There were missing capitals and end marks, sentences that were vague and penmanship that seemed rushed. As I sat at my kitchen table, aware of the fact that I was taking time out of my week end to correct these papers, a sense of determination came over me. (This happens every so often – maybe you know it too.) I was determined to go back to school, papers in hand and let these kids know just how important this assignment was. I would then take time to reemphasize my expectations and then give them the opportunity, no, the command to redo the work they are so capable of doing!
(So, anyone else ever feel this way?)
I know I’m not alone. And yet, what is it that makes so many students not feel the urgency to always do their best? I have very capable students. They are not all capable of the same things, but with some modifications and differentiation, they are all capable of doing the work they are ultimately assigned.
And then it hit me – it’s always there, but sometimes it needs to re-enter my frame of mind: kids want experience, creativity, hands-on, engagement, arts, real-world connections. I can’t just give them an assignment and expect it to just click. (Or can I?)
And so I ask myself:
- What could I have done differently?
- Should I have introduced the assignment better?
- Should I have modeled a well crafted response to the journal prompt?
- Should I have sold the kids on the importance of doing such a pre-reading activity?
- Should I have added in a spark of creativity into the introduction or into the assignment itself?
It seems to go back to my thoughts on assuming. I often get to a point where I assume my students, who are bright, capable kids, will want to do great work all the time. Never assume! (Maybe another post title should be Always Engage.)
But as I think more and more about this, another real real truth comes to the forefront – it’s just part of the process!
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if all my students did near perfect work all the time? I guess… but get real! That isn’t the way is supposed to work. Not everything we do in life is done well the first time and maybe this is just the opportunity I need to help illustrate that point to my kids.
Work ethic, tenacity, and perseverance are qualities that, dare I say, are more important than great products. It’s the process: giving my students time to talk about their work thus far, peer evaluate, show some exemplars and allowing time to do better.
So, there’s the plan and, more importantly, the approach. It’s not to be punitive: “Why didn’t you all do better?” It’s to be productive: “Now you have the opportunity to improve.”
I’ll let you know how it goes!
In the meantime, let me know your thoughts! 🙂
I recently got the pleasure of going on a fishing trip with a 30 year veteran of teaching. While I got many pearls of wisdom from him the one that really hit me was: “Kids are just that Kids and they will act like kids. If you don’t expect kids to let you down teaching can be a hard profession. ” So often we forget this and it is a perspective that must not be forgot.
That is very wise! …something we can’t forget.
I am a “process” girl myself, and then I feel like I sometimes neglect to comment on the conventions in order to get more “deep thoughts”…it’s the deep thoughts that thrill me as a teacher though, not so much the remembering to punctuate correctly. Ugh.
I hear ya! I often ask students to rework an assignment purely for the content, but may not always mention, “oh, and don’t forget to look up and spell those words correctly.” (Unless of course it’s one of those papers where the conventions completely interfere with the message.)
Consider using informal writing as a tool for teaching and learning. The writing sessions should be short (usually 1-2 minutes) and make students think, not just recall some fact. You can make informal prompts multi-task. Benefits of informal writing for teacher: grading each piece is not necessary, quality of discussion after writing improves, entire class participates.
I work mainly with teachers of teens and adults, but this general discussion of informal writing applies to all ages.