Threatened essay test - would rather not give it...

Discussion in 'High School' started by ambritlit, Sep 22, 2007.

  1. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    Sep 22, 2007

    I need advice. I'm a new teacher - 11th and 12th gr English - and I have one class that is absolutely out of control. They totally ignore when I tell them to get quiet - I'm amazed at the absolute rudeness of it. On Friday I was trying to start my lecture introducing a new topic and attempted several times to begin. I refuse to yell... finally I just got really fed up, closed my book, and told them that since they apparently know all of this material we'll go straight to an essay test next class. I advised them they might want to read over the material before then, and I sat down. They were so shocked, you could've heard a pin drop for the next 30 minutes. They left quietly when the bell rang and that was that.

    My dilemma is I'd rather not do the essay test, but I don't want to back down. I feel that this will set me up as a pushover. But I hate to punish the few who weren't misbehaving with the rest. Some of these kids are really worried about their grades. I thought about giving the essay test but holding off on posting the grades to edline to see if behavior improves. We don't drop grades, so if it's posted it'll be counted. Any ideas??
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Sep 22, 2007

    You've stated that it will be a consequence. The first rule of both parenting and teaching is this: don't make any threats that you're not prepared to follow through on.

    If you're determined NOT to give it, how's this:

    Walk in Monday, and give the test. Make it a killer. Collect it at the end of the period. Then let them know that you will NOT even look at the tests until the next time their behavior is out of control. If and when that day comes, the test counts.

    Christmas has come in September. But remember: Santa comes only once a year.
     
  4. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I was going to say the same thing - don't make empty threats.

    I would also give the test, and either score it so they can see where they need improvement, but don't put it in the gradebook (then it is sort of a teaching tool.) or just don't grade them at all and tell the kids that will be their first draft and as the unit continues they can add to the essay, but the first time you step out of line, you are collecting it. (Again, make sure that is real, and not an empty threat).
     
  5. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    Thanks for your replies. I don't have a problem giving the noisy kids the test, I just realized after the fact that I hated to do that to the few who just have the misfortune of being stuck in class with these blabbermouths.

    I was always the good kid in school, and I hated when teachers punished the entire class for the misbehavior of some. I always felt that they either couldn't or wouldn't deal with the bad kids... now I've done the same thing...
     
  6. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    I can't improve on Alice's and silverspoon's advice.

    Is it that you're not sure how you can come up with a sufficiently killer essay between now and Monday? That's something that some of us can probably help you with.

    If you're concerned about blow-back from the parents, I wouldn't be: the announced stay of judgment should cover you. And word will spread among the other students that Miss Ambritlit means what she says... you're likely to find that ALL your classes behave better from now on.

    All in the cause of civilization, my dear.
     
  7. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    Sep 22, 2007

    I was going to say the same thing: you cannot go back on what you say. They will then know that you don't always mean what you say. But Alice brings up a great solution.
     
  8. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    Sep 22, 2007

    I would do as Alice said. My kids know that if they start fooling around that I will start giving pop quizzes and I will collect homework everyday and grade it.
     
  9. WindyCityGal606

    WindyCityGal606 Enthusiast

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    Oooooh!! That's good!! :2up:
    I'm putting that one in my bag of goodies!
    Thank you so much!!
     
  10. mstemple05

    mstemple05 Cohort

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    Sep 22, 2007

    I'm slow. And maybe because i'm tired and have been up since a little before 8 am and chasing a 2 yr old and at a birthday party all day. But somebody please explain the christmas quote. i get santa only comes once a year, like, you know what? i can't even try to begin explaining it. I think i'm just off. please help me..

    and as for the essay threat-go with it. and to add insult to injury and pour salt in the wound, ball it up and throw it in the trash right in front of their face. and in case you're concerned that they may say they won't do it next time since u threw it away, i'd just advise them that they never know which counts and which does. but the hard work of studying and preparing and then you just ball it up and trash it. i bet they'll shut their mouths then!!

    just my opinion. may be a little extreme and/or even mean. but i believe it works. hope this helps..
     
  11. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    A hug to you, mstemple. Christmas coming in September is the essay test not being counted, at least for the moment.
     
  12. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Oh, and before they start, remind them: Spelling and grammar must, of course, be correct.

    As you collect the tests, give a quick Doctoral Dissertation on what should have been included in a "decent" essay.

    And remember: whether or not you count the tests or even look at them, you're making an important point here. HS kids need to know where the boundaries are. If they think in September that they can push and push and push you, they will. But if they learn that you will eventually push back, and push hard, you'll all have a much more pleasant year. So consider tomorrow to be an important lesson, and treat it as such. Don't apologize to the good kids; if you don't count hte test they've lost nothing, but have gained a class where learning can now take place.
     
  13. JaimeMarie

    JaimeMarie Moderator

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    I like Alice's idea. Give the test. If they misbehave again the grade count. I wouldn't tell them that until Tuesday maybe after you have scored the test. Or Wednesday after they have had a day to fret about the grade they got on their test.
     
  14. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    We are on block schedule, so I will actually see this class again on Tuesday - so they should have sufficient time to worry about the essay!

    As for making it hard enough, that shouldn't be a problem. I had planned to introduce the unit on Native American literature and assign a creation myth (The World on a Turtle's Back). They did not get the intro, so they are going to have a hard time discussing the material... I also thought I might have them write a compare and contrast essay, comparing aspects of the creation myth with various Bible stories - it's a Catholic school, so I'm totally free to do that. Does that sound scary enough?
     
  15. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    I would try to use the test as more of a teaching tool than behavior management, even though that is why you originally assigned it. I just believe that grades should reflect a students true skill, not their behavior, so I DEFINITELY wouldn't grade the essay that you know they are going to fail. I wouldn't ball it up and throw it in the trash (although I would love the looks on the faces) and I wouldn't keep it until the next time they act up, because then you are using writing as punishment, and it is hard enough to get kids to write as it is... We should never use writing as a punishment. I would still give it, since you made that threat, but like I said before, I would then have them use the piece throughout the unit. And then I would try not to make that threat again.
     
  16. wig

    wig Devotee

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    I agree with all of the above. Definitely follow through. The ones who were listening will be the same ones that study. I really like Alice's idea.

    Short term I agree with Brendan. Like you I do not teach when they do not listen. I always list on the board exactly what I intend to cover. It always ends with "classwork". The only homework they get is when what isn't finished in class. Give them whatever you do not cover in class as homework and give them a quiz the next day on the material. On the positive side, when we have a really good class period with a lot of productive discussion, I will erase classwork off the board and give them 5-10 minutes of "visiting time" at the end of the period. I don't do this often, but sometimes the discussion is good enough to take away the need for re-enforcement.
     
  17. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Regardless of what you decide to do with the papers, be sure to fill in your department chair or the AP before the phone calls come in. Let him or her know that you have no intention of counting the test, but since you threatened it you know that you need to follow through.

    In my experience, administrators are happy to back up a teacher who is working on classroom management, but they hate not being in the loop. Being blindsided by a bunch of parent phone calls is a tough way to start the week.
     
  18. bandnerdtx

    bandnerdtx Aficionado

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    I'm with SilverSpoon on this. I really don't think writing should be used as punishment. I would grade it, but tell them that it is going to be counted as the first draft in a paper you will now take through the writing process. You might not have planned to write a paper at this point in your curriculum, but it sure can't hurt them!
     
  19. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    The kids won't see it this way, of course, but this exercise has high potential to turn into a win-win.

    Don't you just love it when the "bad mistake" ends up having good consequences?
     
  20. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    And just to add about your feelings about the "good" kids being punished - I have found that the good students really don't mind punishments if it means that YOU will have control of the class and not the blabbermouths.
     
  21. wunderwhy

    wunderwhy Comrade

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    I know how you feel, but you really do not to give the test. Otherwise, your word means nothing.

    I gave a class an essay test when I discovered (and heard) that one honors class had cheated horribly on a test while I was on jury duty. I gave the guilty the chance to confess to save the rest of the class from an essay test makeup, but they didn't take it. I felt sad for the 80% of the class that I had no evidence had cheated, but I couldn't think of any alternative that wasn't rewarding cheating. If kids did well on the suspect test and well on the essay test, then I knew they hadn't cheated and made sure their essay test score was pretty equivalent to their previous test score. As I suspected, the cheaters did poorly on the essay test and were in no position to challenge their score, so I felt justice was done as best as possible. I also allowed students who felt they had received a worse score unfairly to talk to me and gave a few extra points in that case.
     
  22. VA2500

    VA2500 Rookie

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    I concur, do not use promises you cannot keep.

    My advice is to solve the problem before it gets out of hand. I use the high five method. When I need your attention, I raise my hand, you raise your, turn toward me and be quite. No yelling. I like this because a student can finish his sentence and then be quite.

    I know some teachers do not like this method, but it works for me. I have even used it when presenting to large groups of teachers, now there is a really rowdy bunch.

    Actually it doesn't really matter what signal you have, a friend of mind has a tiny little dinner bell, what is important is the kids know the signal, and you use it consistently.

    VA
     
  23. teachmemath

    teachmemath Companion

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    ambritlit, what did you end up doing??
     
  24. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    It was awesome. I gave the essay test. I had them compare aspects of the Native American creation myth and similar biblical accounts. They were shocked, but I told them I want them to know they can believe what I tell them.

    I also sent a mass email to the parents Sunday afternoon via Edline. I said I wanted to let everyone know about the situation with this class, that the kids are fine individually, but all of them together are out of control. I said I'm giving everyone fair notice that the party is over, and I invited the parents to email or call me if they had any questions. Several did - all apologizing for the lack of respect the class had shown and asking me to please let them know if their child was a problem.

    I talked to the AP Monday and let her know what was going on, then I spoke to the football coach (because I have 8 players in this class). At the beginning of class, I pulled the football players into the foyer for a meeting, they actually thought I wanted to tell them how good they played on Friday. I said yes, great game (they are now 3-0), then told them what leaders they are, and how I expect them to behave BETTER than the rest of the class and be the example. I also told them that Coach said to let him know if the problem continues. Let me tell you - those boys were like my own personal bouncers when we went back into the room.

    To top it all off, I left the writing prompt on the board. When the other classes saw it, they freaked out. Do we have to do that? And I said no, that was for the class who wouldn't be quiet and let me teach. So I've had a wonderful week. :) The AP actually stopped me in the hall and said she is very pleased that I handled it so well.
     
  25. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    Oh, and the football players also pulled me aside at lunch and said they thought I needed to know that "Mike" (another loud kid in the class) plays basketball, so I could probably speak to the basketball coach about him... I thought that was funny.
     
  26. INteacher

    INteacher Aficionado

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    Congrats - you should feel very proud of yourself. Job well done!!!
    I never thought to use Edline to inform parents of classroom behavior- good or bad. Thanks for passing on what worked for you.
     
  27. smalltowngal

    smalltowngal Multitudinous

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    I'm glad that everything worked out so well!! I know you didn't want to have to make them do it, but in the end it's probably worth the effort for a better behaved class!!
     
  28. wig

    wig Devotee

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    Congratulations! Well, done!
     
  29. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Congratulations!!!

    You now have a reputation. And trust me, next year's kids will come in knowing that you mean business!! You've laid some important groundwork here!!
     
  30. goldalex

    goldalex Rookie

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    I've read through this thread and definitely will remember how you handled it once I have a class of my own. Seems like a really good way to handle students misbehaving and not having to resort to referrals and leaning on the admin....
     
  31. daysy_may

    daysy_may Groupie

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    Glad everything turned out so well!
     
  32. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    INteacher - that was the second time I've emailed parents. I actually had a mom call today to check on her son's behavior, and she thanked me for using edline emails. She said this is the most communication she's had about her child since her kids have been in school. Just this afternoon I emailed all students - and copied the parents - to remind them that independent reading projects are due next week.
     
  33. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Hoooooooray, ambritlit!
     
  34. mstemple05

    mstemple05 Cohort

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    THAT IS SO COOL!!

    CONGRATULATIONS! GLAD IT ALL WORKED OUT FOR YOUR GOOD IN THE END. YAAAAYYYY!! ;)
     
  35. sophia576

    sophia576 Rookie

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    I'm so glad. It worked for you! I have 3 football players in my class and was feeling guilty if I told the coaches anything. Even though they tell us to.

    I think I"m going to start using pop quizzes. Thank you for your story. I'm glad I'm not the only one.
     
  36. sophia576

    sophia576 Rookie

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    Ok so I did the pop quiz! and I explained how if their talking continues while I am lecturing I will continue the quizzes everyday. They didn't like that too much. I usually quiz after a lesson. Which is usually once a week. There was some improvement and monday hopefully will be different too.
     
  37. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Last year about half way through the year my son's 2nd grade teacher started emailing me postive stuff about my son. Then when she had something negative to say, I was pleased because it meant she was keeping me in touch no matter which way it went. At the end of the year she was a little stuck because I guess she hadn't saved all her emails and admin expected proof she had communicated with parents and how. So she asked if I could write a letter just stating that she had. That was her only requirement. I sent a RAVING letter saying this was the first time I felt true communication, etc. I meant every word. I sent her multiple copies so she could keep one for herself.

    P.S. I want to know if the essays ended up being graded or not.
     
  38. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Love this post, cutNglue. Can I give you a hug for being one of A to Z's really strong forces for good?
     
  39. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Awwww... :hugs::hugs:
     
  40. ambritlit

    ambritlit Companion

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    Yes, I did grade the essays, and they weren't too terrible bad... I did count them and they are on edline. The good news is that I had this class for the third time today since the essay (we are on block schedule) and they are still behaving MUCH better. I actually gave my first demerits in this block today and one on the kids came up and whispered don't forget to email the AP about the demerits. I think they do want order.
     
  41. wig

    wig Devotee

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    I am so glad! I think most kids do want order and consistency.
     

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