Friday, October 5, 2012

How Great Thou Art

I love teaching sixth grade.

For most kids, it's the first time they are dipping their big toe into the big pool of life, and they love the independence. BUT... then there are those days when it seems much more fun to whisper with your friend about what happened at lunch than to talk about and actually do the assignment, and uh-oh, you are way to busy to catch up at home, and suddenly you are a few things behind and not sure what to do.

In the education we call that a teachable moment, but I think I've heard other people say, Give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themselves. Still, where I'm from we try not to hang the middle school children, even metaphorically.

Such an occasion is an opportunity. Can you solve this on your own? Should we involve your parents? How can we support you in being more successful? Most eleven-year-olds have never heard those questions, much less been asked them. They expect their teachers to be both instructors and enforcers, and that's convenient because if they don't get it? It's never their fault.

That's why we try to create an engaging, low stakes environment with clear accountability. Every student has more than one chance to succeed or fail, make an adjustment (with the support of their parents if necessary), and then try again. In such a classroom, consequence and punishment are not synonyms.

Tonight we received a forwarded email from our nephew's middle school English teacher. After describing the 2 assignments he had missing, it read, Today is the last day for my students to be able to make up zeroes, so he will have one hour in class to raise his grade. Please let me know if you have any questions. Have a great Friday!

Could that be more unrealistic? I mean face it-- their Friday is blown.

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