What does it take?

The questions about promotion started a couple of weeks ago. Right on schedule. What does it take to move to the next level? Good question. They brainstormed a list of things they thought I would consider when making my decision. Some of the items on the list: class participation, attendance, work on projects, determination. Good stuff. Even better because no one said the one thing that everyone else always jumps to first: the TEST. We’re doing final tests right now, and those scores are always foremost on everyone’s mind. I’m fascinated and thrilled that no one in the group thought of that.

It’s true that test scores count for something in this decision, but they are far from everything. I really do take things like class participation and determination into account. Makes the decision both easier and harder depending on the student.

For our ‘Reflection’ writing, I had everyone write the one thing they would want J___ to know so that he could be a better teacher for them. People had a hard time with it at first — some because they thought they had too many things to write. Others struggled with giving a teacher advice on how to do his or her job. But there were some good responses:

Sometimes I don’t understand what the teacher says. Maybe repeat at least one time.

I would tell J___ not to talk fast and when every time he said something for him to explain what he’s saying.

I want to let him know that I am poor in writing skill.

Well, I am very loud, so I would want him to know and not let it bother him.

I like to go over the work until I get it.

Just be himself so we can see who he is.

Don’t be too harsh on us.

I like this list, too. I love that Desirée doesn’t offer up the possibility that she could maybe get a handle on her noisiness rather than asking J___ to put up with it and not be bothered by it. And I’m intrigued by the “Just be himself” suggestion. I love how easily honest they are about the things they need to work one. This reflection is a pretty mild example, but it showed me once again that, if I just step back, my students will step up and say the stuff I might not expect but really want to hear. Even my quietest students open their doors when they write reflections. Yes, it’s something about asking the right questions and about the trust we’ve built up over the last few months, but it’s much more about me giving them space.

I’m not yet sure who will be promoted. One of my jobs for the weekend is to do evaluations and figure that out. I’m passing the notes on to J___. I hadn’t planned to, but the class asked me to, so I will. And this reflection that I thought of at the last moment when I decided to ditch the planned one is definitely being added to my end-of-term activities.

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6 thoughts on “What does it take?

  1. Hi, Stacey– In our case, it’s more like ‘momentum’ promotion. The differences between my level and the next are slim. We have a lot of levels, and we’ve set it up that way so that most students will be able to move at the end of the term. One of the things I’ve seen with these kids is that if they don’t feel they’re moving forward, making progress, getting closer to the holy grail of the GED, they disappear, drop out all over again. Especially students in my level. Students in the earlier levels kind of get that they have such a long way to go. Spending a year or two in one of those levels is more do-able for them. Students at the higher levels can see the 8-week test prep course just over the next hill, and that gives them the motivation to stay. My level is a weird one. It’s not Basic Education, but it isn’t GED prep, either. They are very vulnerable, always so close to dropping. This time in the term is always so hard for me, balancing what students need academically against what they need to keep them coming to class.

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  2. Thanks, Bonnie– I like the way writing here has pushed me to put more of my thoughts about teaching down in writing. It’s been helpful for me to look back at my teaching posts and remember ideas I had. Years ago I kept a teaching journal, and I’d forgotten how good that was for my practice.

    And it’s great to know that we’re on the same page, as what I know of your practice makes me really respect you as a teacher, so I take that as a compliment!

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  3. As someone who has focused on low-performing students at the elementary level, it does my heart good to see this level of care going into low-performing students at the high school level. I (and others?) tend to think that no one will care for our students the way that we do right now and oh no how will they survive without us. Well, there is hope when there are teachers like you.

    I love the idea of their thinking about what their next teacher could do to help them. Great end-of-the-year reflection for any grade level.

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  4. Thanks, Liza– I wish someone in the public schools had spent more time and attention on the kids I work with. I get them after they’ve dropped out and figured out that they really need to finish school. I’m glad they figure that out and come to programs like the ones I work in … where they find lots of people like me who really think and care about them. I just with there were more people at the HS level with the time, energy and inclination to help keep these kids in school and on the path to graduation.

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