Friday, January 18, 2013

End of the Semester

So I'm feeling a little discouraged today.

As a teacher, I have expectations of myself that are pretty high, especially for a second year teacher.  I truly want ALL of my students to succeed, so any time they don't, I feel like I failed them in some way.

As grades start to come out, there are always those who didn't get the grades I know they are capable of.  I have one student in French 1 who literally refuses to turn in homework.  She has an F.  Every time I have tried talking to her, she has no explanation and won't really answer my questions.  I've tried talking to her guidance counselor and contacting home, but I'm always met with a dead end and she never turns anything in.  Even though she's like this with every other class (we can see grades online), I still feel like there should have been something more I could do.

In my other French 1 class, I have two boys who are both really good friends of one another.  Both of them are very smart.  But they also both get really distracted and are disorganized.  Early on, I made it my goal for them to do well in my class.  I put them both in prime seating to pay attention, I offer them help often, I remind them of missing work.  I just found out that they are dropping my class at semester because their grades aren't good.

It's really silly for me to have this Utopic idea of what my classroom to be.  I teach 12-15 year old kids.  There's no way I will ever engage them all and there's no way they will all love my class and all get A's. 

I want to be a good teacher.  I want the kids to learn and I want them to love the language.  I just wish I didn't take it so personally when they don't.

Friday, January 11, 2013


This is post two in my series of organization tips to make your life easier and make your students' excuses go out the window.

Flu season is upon us.  I don't know about everyone else, but keeping track of who was absent when and for how many days gets to be a huuuge headache.  The hard part of all of that is trying to remember which assignments and classwork they missed and relaying that to them easily.  Yeah, you can probably verbally tell them.  But what 14 year old is going to remember what you say to them ten minutes later?  I also cannot stand being crowded around at the beginning of an hour with students asking what they missed.  It wastes my time and their fellow classmates' time.

Instead, I decided to start a clipboard system.  Each level has a clipboard in the room.  Each clipboard has a sheet of paper on it with three columns: date, classwork and homework.  This allows students to see exactly what we did (INCLUDING: what was handed in...I can't tell you how many students do their homework but don't hand it in because they were absent the day it was due), what notes they need to get from a classmate, and what homework they have.  Any handouts are in the absent folder (see THIS post to know what I'm talking about with that). 

I only started this a few weeks ago, but it's making a big difference.  It's especially effective in conveying if there is something out of the book or a non-worksheet assignment that is due.  My students used to just go to the absent folder, but I obviously can't put their textbook in there to tell them they have #4 on page 38 due.  My goal is by the end of February to never hear the words "Madame, what did I miss?" ever again.  Of course I'm happy to clear up any questions, but 90% of their original questions can be answered by checking the absent folder and the clipboards.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Class Folders

I've noticed over the years that students will give just about any excuse to get what they want. Most of the time the excuse is geared towards making their life easier all while getting the best grade possible.

My next few posts are going to be geared towards showing ways to eliminate those excuses (mostly through classroom organization).  Hopefully they can kill two birds with one stone: firstly keeping you (the teacher) organized and secondly, DRASTICALLY cutting down on excuses and increasing student self-responsibility.

In my room, each hour has a box (I use a magazine holder box).  In each box are three folders: IN, OUT and ABSENT.

Rather than have students pass forward their work and then I put it in some sort of grading pile, I have them turn it into the in-folder.  This majorly cuts down on "Madame I gave that to you!" or "Madame, I put it on your desk!"  If it's not in the in-folder, it's not in.  The out-folder is where I put finished/graded items for students.  They are always welcome to dig through there to see if they have anything to take.  Whenever there is a work time and the out-folder is getting particularly full, I'll pass it out as well.  The absent folder is where I put any worksheets students missed while absent.  I put their name on it and they go to the folder to get any handouts they missed.  It saves my sanity from having to keep track of extra copies for students who are gone.

I also have my OWN set of folders in my school bag to keep organized.  I have a "to correct/grade", a "to hand back/to", and a "my papers".  I ALWAYS take anything from the in-folder of a class to put it immediately into the "to correct/grade".  Once it's graded, it's put into the "to hand back/to" folder, which then goes to the out-folder.  By using a folder system, I have found that losing student work is minimal to non-existent, which not only cuts down on their excuses, but mine as well.  Whenever a student comes up to me and tells me they handed something in (even if I'm showing it's not), I can say with SO much more confidence, "Sorry Pierre, I don't have it here.  Maybe check your folder?"