Think I've really screwed this up, now what?

Discussion in 'New Teachers' started by MissEducation, Dec 16, 2009.

  1. MissEducation

    MissEducation Companion

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    Dec 16, 2009

    So this grading period was our research paper unit. I got a late start (I wasn't aware we were supposed to DO a research project) and so I didn't do the greatest job teaching the info. I have played a bit of damage control when grading, going easy on some areas we did not cover as much in class. I also plan to do a mini-unit on it next g.p. to reinforce/catch up with what I wasn't able to effectively teach this time.

    I'm really worried because I have so many kids who just flat out didn't do the project. Nothing. Not a note card, not a single word. They are going to fail. I warned them of this multiple times a day, but they don't seem to care. Today I asked another English teacher how many of her kids didn't do it - she had maybe 4 or 5 out of 90. I have about half of my 60. :eek: I guess I just assumed that this was a common problem, but now I'm seeing that it's a rarity among the other classes. What am I going to do? Can I actually fail half my class? I did send home a paper for parents to sign at the beginning of the unit which said students who didn't do the project WOULD fail, but many of the students did not return them.

    I know I SHOULD HAVE done a lot of things differently. I should have contacted parents as we went along, had conferences with students, talked with my principal or other teachers before now. But I didn't. So now what?

    I feel like reducing the value of the entire project so that kids who didn't do it at least have a chance of getting a D if they've done other work. I know this is probably a terrible teaching practice, but part of this is my fault. I've obviously failed in some way. I can't put all the blame on the students.

    I am just so stressed about this and even the promise of break in 2 days isn't relieving it. :help::dizzy::(:thanks:
     
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  3. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    Dec 16, 2009

    Wow - half your class not doing it is pretty major. I'm not sure how it would be handled at the middle school, but my first thought is to make the failing provisional. Tell them that there is an automatic grade level loss for it being so late (so no one can make an A, a B would be the highest), but if they were to do the project to grade it and change their grade. I teach 4th I wouldn't want to punish them for something I didn't cover well enough. That said, we did Louisiana Alien projects this six weeks (adaptations) and those who didn't turn one in did receive a zero. It's not weighted, so it doesn't count more than a regular grade, but it does hurt their grade. You said you talked to another teacher about the number who didn't do the project, maybe talk to her and get her opinion. She'll know more what is acceptable at your school. Good luck!
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 16, 2009

    Tomorrow morning, first thing, go to your department chairman. come completely clean, and ask for advice.

    Failing half your kids is a huge problem-- there's got to be an alternative. One idea might be to carry that particular grade over to the next marking period.

    But talk to your chairperson ASAP and work on alternatives.
     
  5. mmswm

    mmswm Moderator

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    Dec 16, 2009

    I agree with both Christy and Alice. Come clean with your department chair and ask for advise. I like the idea of offering a redo opportunity but knocking down the grade by a letter grade. Maybe you can offer that up as a possible solution. I don't have anything else to add. Alice and Christy have pretty much said it all.
     
  6. orangepurple

    orangepurple Companion

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    Dec 16, 2009

    I think it's a problem, but it's a problem in one of my classes as well! We had a huge unit on the research paper. Let me make that a little clearer--it was a long unit, but a short paper, only about 6 paragraphs long, 5 sources minimum. It included lots of work beforehand on notetaking, summarizing, paraphrasing, plagiarism, library skills, etc. There were lots of steps along the way that were checked; for example, they were supposed to get notecards checked by the librarian on three different occasions.

    I think fewer than half actually finished! I called many parents, but by no means all. I just couldn't keep up. It's an English language learner class, which last year was limited to 24. This year I had 38, which was just way too many to supervise on the days that they were doing their own research. Many of them just wouldn't do it. I'd send half to the library; some would get sent back for bad behavior. Some would take notes each library day; others would do nothing. We'd brainstorm about suitable topics and get 40 or so up on the board; they'd say they couldn't think of a topic. It was really horrible.

    Most of the kids who didn't do it are failing at least three classes. That's the only thing that makes me feel at least a little bit less bad about it. Not better, exactly, but at least less bad.

    So I don't know if that will make you feel better, but maybe it will make you feel less bad!
     
  7. guest_teacher

    guest_teacher Rookie

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    Dec 17, 2009

    You are right to be worried. Even though the students are responsible for not having followed through, your department chair and principal will treat the students' failure as your failure. High failure rates make administrators look bad. Accordingly, administrators favor teachers who pass most -- if not all -- students. It is so much easier not to have to answer questions from parents, the superintendent, the District Intervention and Assistant Team, the Alternative Governance Board, or even the trustees.

    Teachers "achieve" the expected result through clever weighting of grades. This fall, I inherited a syllabus that made it practically impossible for students to fail: 50% participation and 50% quizzes/tests. Even at that, 2 out of 66 students managed to fail during the quarter that they spent with me -- poor attendance ate away at those participation points. The administration was not pleased.

    You have two choices: to come clean, as someone else has suggested, or to keep quiet, as I will suggest. Give the lazies partial credit for effort (just enough credit to pass), and assign them some make up work to complete over the Winter Break. (It should be something fool-proof. My cynical side suggests a word-search with functional vocabulary for research papers, e.g. "library", "footnote", and "bibliography"; a photo collage on the topic of the incomplete research paper; or a 2-minute interpretive dance. A more constructive suggestion would be a sequencing worksheet, in which the students would be given a list of the steps involved in writing a research paper, and would have to put the steps in order. You could include a second column for reflections; for each step, the students could write a sentence about what they would do differently/how they would do a better job next time.)

    Since you are posting in the New Teacher forum, I will assume that you are still making a name for yourself in the profession. Turn a blind eye this time, knowing that once you are established, tenured, secure, you will be able to grade more strictly and more honestly, without harming your career prospects. (Obviously, I am writing this reluctantly, but we have to be pragmatic!)
     
  8. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Dec 20, 2009

    Hmm. I had a very similar problem with a project - about 20 of my 7th graders didn't turn in an at-home project that they a) had a month to work on, b) had daily reminders - on the board and verbally from me, and c) had a notice sent to their homes via email.

    Mine was weighted, as per the department guidelines. So I had a LOT of kids fail the 1st quarter, as opposed other teachers who only had 1 or two kids fail. My students were betting that I wouldn't *actually* GIVE them an F for a final grade (they are very bright and know that teachers look bad when they have too many Fs. Despite the number of times I've told them that I'm not Santa Claus; I don't *give* grades, they *earn* grades). So I did damage control. The Fs went out on the report card; I spoke to each child individually; I then called their parents and explained why they failed. The kids then had 1 additional week to turn in the project, for 10% off, which would result in a grade change for the child. I let admin know what was going on and they approved my method. All in all, only 11 kids made the project up, so I still had a high number fail, which admin at least knows now is directly tied into student laziness and not poor instruction.

    Part of it is just the age - 7th/8th graders can be incredibly lazy and especially when they know you are new to the school/profession. But I think you absolutely have to go to your admin/dept. chair and let them know what's going on.
     
  9. JaimeMarie

    JaimeMarie Moderator

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    Dec 20, 2009

    Did you already talk to someone? What happened? If not do you have a mentor? The best thing to do would be talk to him/her.
     
  10. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Dec 21, 2009

    Wondering how this turned out too.

    I have students who don't turn in reports too or they don't follow-through on assignments. There's really not much I can do about it.

    In my situation, it's generally not the kid's fault, parents aren't there to help them out. For example, in the spring the kids write a puppet script, make puppets, and then do a puppet show. They write the script in class but don't make puppets. I tell them to use old socks, popscile sticks, whatever they have around the house... I generally keep a stock of materials in the class room and have them put something together at the last minute. I hate for them to fail something so simple.
     
  11. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    Dec 22, 2009

    What I'd do is contact parents, send home failing grades, then have those kids in during lunch or after school to do missed work. Average in their new points.
     
  12. Arbie

    Arbie Rookie

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    Dec 23, 2009

    (( hugs )))

    I hate it when I think I'm the problem.

    This won't help you this time, but next time divide the research paper into sections and have a due date for each section with a grade.

    ONe thing I'd do is when I went to the chair for some advice as to what to do THIS time, I'd have a plan to show her/him what my improved plan next time would be. I'd address all the problems that i encountered.

    Good luck. I think that:dizzy: teaching and grading research papers would be sooooo hard. Glad I don't have to do it.
     
  13. Michael S.

    Michael S. Companion

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    Dec 23, 2009

    I'm sorry, but your proposal is a bit absurd. You are suggesting that a teacher should let students make up an entire project to receive partial credit by completing a simple two-columned worksheet. The students need to work hard for their grade. If not, they will learn that they can not complete their work and will be offered an alternative assignment to get by (which is not how life works).

    Let your students make it up. The assignment, however, needs to be on the same level of difficulty as the research project (just reduced in length). Talk to your mentor though.
     
  14. KLSSwimmer

    KLSSwimmer Habitué

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    Dec 23, 2009

    Hmmm I am also wondering how this turned out! I hope it turned out well for you!
     
  15. wrice

    wrice Habitué

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    Dec 23, 2009

    By the way, you didn't screw up! You gave requirements and the kids failed to follow them.

    Of course, you can anticipate better now how much hand-holding you'll have to do in order to get the results you want, and in the future I'd suggest you send home for signature a mini-calendar with several check-in points; just don't become too apologetic here! It's still an assignment the kids failed to do.
     
  16. Cerek

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    Dec 24, 2009

    I REALLY like the suggestion of dividing the project into sections, mainly because my professor did that with our Teacher Work Sample project that was the biggest part of our internship grade. The project included several different sections and, fortunately, my professor made one section due every week. Otherwise, I would have been busting my brains trying to complete a semester project in the last 2-3 weeks before it was due (yes, I am a procrastinator by nature).

    I teach math instead of LA, but I had the same experience with my middle grade kids being lazy and half of them failing, either from lack of effort or from just not understanding the material. I learned that, as mentioned before, middle graders still require a LOT of hand-holding and leading. I also learned they needed to cover new material for at least 3-4 days before being given a homework assignment on it. I began to focus on classwork instead of homework and always gave students time in class to do any homework I assigned. Even at that, I had some students who would simply refuse to do ANY work whatsoever. :eek: That is a mindset I simply cannot understand. I might put stuff off, but I still know it has to be done. These students would just sit in class and talk instead of using the time I gave them and would claim they had "too much to do" at home when they didn't do it in class.

    I discussed this with my CT and she said that the best thing I can do for the kids is let them fail so they realize they have to take their work seriously. She tried accepting late homework and make-up assignments earlier in her career and realized she was just causing a lot more work and headaches for herself. So she accepts NO late homework at all now. If you don't do the work, you get a 0, period.

    Our gradebook software allowed us to insert a note for any grade the students received. Any time there was a zero or missing grade, we always put a note in along with it explaining WHY the student failed or got no grade. These notes were printed out on the progress reports and report cards, so a lot of parent questions were answered before they had a chance to ask them.
     

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