Posted by Bob Greenberger on October 3, 2013
On the first day of school, I told my ninth graders that beginning that day, things got real. Things counted. Every grade mattered because it would inform the GPA that would give them options in four years. I explained it was time to get serious and laid out in my syllabus that I would not take later assignments. I was trying to get them to raise their game and make it clear from the outset that I was holding them to a high standard.
They weren’t paying attention.
I told my eleventh graders that to me, this was going to be their toughest academic year because not only did they have school work but they had to fit in PSATs and SATs. They were going to bombarded from all sides about college and from colleges. As a result, work I gave was not filler but it mattered.
They weren’t paying attention.
On Monday, the interim grades for the first quarter had to be posted and on Wednesday the reports were given to the students for review with their parents. As you might expect, in the weeks leading up to this, suddenly everyone wanted to on Edline and check their grades. It had to be right now, in class, rather than checking from home. I decided to take it easy on the freshmen, letting the reality of their new situation sink in so I negotiated one on one to let them make up selected, important assignments. Some took advantage of it. Others remained silent. Some asked for extra credit so I came up with an assignment, which no one turned in.
All of a sudden, scared athletes are coming to me for second or third chances because without a 2.0 average they couldn’t stay on JV Football or qualify for the basketball team. They have been earnest, some pleaded, one even insisted on a hallway conversation to save faced in front of his classmates. It’s suddenly become very real to them. Interestingly, none of the 11th graders have come pleading their case.
I’m finally starting to hear from parents, some asking for conferences, one giving up on a recalcitrant daughter. We have some conferences scheduled for next week. What I am learning, though, as I reach out to parents and hear from colleagues is that some of these kids have it very tough. Some don’t live with their parents; some are in group or foster homes. One just lost a parent. Others aren’t comfortable with the language and would prefer I speak with a sibling, which is awkward for me because the kid is only a little older than the student. I have to adjust my expectations of the students’ performance and of how much help I can expect from the homefront.
None of the above though excuses the absurd, disrespectful behavior that fills most of my day. They want me to be lenient on assignments but when I want their attention or their classwork to be a priority they’d rather gossip, sneak on their headphones, and surreptitiously text away on their phones. On Tuesday, I had to restate the class rules, laying out that from this point on, the favors ended. It was back to choice and consequences. They will choose to work or not, the consequence dictates I give them a zero or a proper grade.
This should be interesting.
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