A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How to Improve Your Grade

I was asked by a student today about how he could improve his grade. Beyond the obvious answer:

(Get higher grades on your work. Understand that a zero will NOT raise your average.)

there are these thoughts:

1. You cannot have everything. If you want to work thirty-two hours a week for a car payment that you admit was your own choice, do not expect me to give you extended time for assignments. You have made a choice.

You. Have. Made. A. Choice.

You have the complete freedom to make this choice. This does not mean that I then have to change my classroom policies to accomodate your choice. I will not, because in the end you have to understand the cost of choices. And take responsibility for them. This is part of my job. You will have a cool ride, and you will have a C. Maybe.

-----1a. If you're going to cry any time your grade gets near a B while working thirty-two hours a week, then eighty-six the job.

2. You have to study and learn the material. I do not give points for "trying." Sometimes you can try really hard, and still not achieve mastery.That means you need help to adjust whatever needs adjusting. I am available every day after school, and you know it.

3. If I am having a conference with another student, do not walk up and demand that I drop my conversation to justify a grade to you, especially when I have written comments for you on the paper which explain the grade. The first part is rude; the second part is just annoying.

4. If you are not reading the material, your grade will suffer. There is no way around this.

5. If I give you forty minutes of class time, and you complete three questions over the material, and then you work six hours after school, it is justified for me to conclude that you wasted your class time. Just because you weren't talking to anyone or disturbing anyone doesn't mean you will be given more time. You had time. And you had to stay longer at your job to finish cleaning up, you say? I sense a pattern here. And it could stem from the fact that you are exhausted. Just a thought.

6. "No" means "no" when it comes oh-so-gently-but-firmly out of my mouth. Wheedling will not work. I know you have never experienced a system like this before, but you have had several weeks to get used to it.

7. What does this mean: "Well, I never do well on tests?" If you don't think that can change, and you make no effort to try to make this change (like coming to me for help, or turning off the TV while you are "studying,") what do you want ME to do about it?

8. Having the book open in front of you is not studying. Running your eyes over the words senselessly is not studying, either.

9. I tell you lots of things that are not in the book. Perhaps you should write them down? And then keep track of this piece of paper-- it's called "your notes"-- so that you can then actually study from it? Just a gentle suggestion.

10. I am not going to allow you to complete the work while we are discussing it in class. Nope. Not ever.

I am a teacher. I care enough about you to craft a good lesson every day. But nowhere in my job description does it say "enabler." I checked recently, because frankly, you never know around here. If school is an afterthought in your busy schedule, there are going to be repercussions.


At 11/14/06, 11:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ms. C,
Do you use this with your students? I read through the list and agree with every reason. It has taken me a few years to get over feeling sorry for my kids. I don't like others who make excuses and I refuse to allow excuses. Thanks for the reaffirmation! Sometimes it's nice to know there are others out there who think like I do!

At 11/15/06, 3:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there Ms. C:

At my high school, most of the kids who work are perfectly willing to take their C or D and get the credit. It's a rare serious after-school worker I've seen who thinks they deserve the A or even try for the A.

The "into a million school activites" kids are different though.

"Yes, you were at a school sponsored event which caused you to get home at midnight; yes, we do have you leaving school to participate in volunteer activities for the National Honor Society; yes, we do allow you to leave all day for a sporting event several times during the season; yes, you were gone for a week on a band trip ..."

Sometimes I feel that teachers in our school have a double standard - allowing late work or make-up work, or extra help, or just a feeling of "oh, you really were up late or busy" in cases such as this, but not for the kid who works 32+ hours a week.

I don't really care if they're tough with everyone or more easy-going with everyone, but it should be to everyone - no matter what the excuse.

At 11/15/06, 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read the fine fine fine print. I'm sure "enabler" really is in there. When push comes to shove, isn't it always?

At 11/15/06, 8:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do not ask the day your report card comes out what a certain low grade was from. You know what you did or did not turn in.

At 11/15/06, 9:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Holy Sweet Jesus, AMEN SISTAH!!!

With your permission (and credit), I'd like to post this in the staff room at our middle school; while most of our kids don't have jobs (although I have a handful of 8th graders that do!), we constantly hear "soccer/baseball/track/etc." as excuses, which I'm tired of. You have put my feelings into words much more clearly than I could have--thank you!

At 11/15/06, 4:35 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Ms. Q, Yes, I do use this with my students.

And anonymous-- that goes for overscheduled kids, too.

kc-- ohh cynical you! But I stil don't see it, so I'm not doing it.

aisby-- how did you know report cards came out the day after he asked? You must be psychic! And you are so right.

mrs. walker, thanks so much! And post away.

At 11/15/06, 7:08 PM, Blogger Laura(southernxyl) said...

Where, WHERE are his parents?

Aisby, in defense of kids asking, my daughter has asked before, and it turned out the teacher misplaced her work or miscalculated.

At 11/15/06, 11:49 PM, Blogger JHS Teacher said...

Laura, Honestly, in 10 years of teaching, I've only truely misplaced one stack of papers from one class.

When one student's paper is missing from a stack, it's not as if that one paper mysteriously floated away; it's usually due to being turned in late, or in the wrong class turn in box.

Now, there is always a chance that the grades get entered incorrectly in the grading program. And I encourage my students to keep all their work, and compare the grades written on their work with the posted grades.

Ms. C... thank you thank you thank you for saying so well what I could not.

At 11/17/06, 7:13 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

I agree. I once had one of my own children spill orange juice on a stack of papers. That's why I don't grade at home any more.

And by the way, this kid's parents are bigshots in the district. The mom tried to subtly pull that crap on me as junior sat there sobbing and I gave her "the look." It still works on adults. Amazing.

Thanks guys!

At 11/22/06, 8:04 AM, Blogger dan said...

Brilliant! I tell my students that school is their number one priority and if other commitments are getting in the way of their academic success, it's time to think about what you really want. I see this with students who are in a sport every season and have all AP/honors classes or the student who works 32 hours a week or the lazy one trying to work the system. They really need to ask their boss for time off, see how that goes over... Aren't those some of the responsibilities we are trying to teach!

At 11/22/06, 2:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I taught middle and high school I avoided (mostly!) the why is my grade so low question with a simple tool. Students were responsible for keeping a grade sheet in their notebook and updating it. I hung a list on the wall in my room and listed every graded assignment and how many points it was worth. Students simply had to calculate their scores and voila they knew their grade. It elimnated completely the argument of 'I didn't know my grade was so low ' and doubled as a list of missed assignment for students who were sick/on a band trip/playing sports/ditching class, etc.

At 11/22/06, 4:30 PM, Anonymous Laura said...

While 32 hour jobs are not the priority keeping my kids from getting their work done (perhaps 32 hours or more on the phone, though), the rest of this rings 100% true.

At 11/22/06, 7:29 PM, Blogger Darren said...

Loved it!

At 11/22/06, 10:46 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Our kids and their parents can access their grades online 24/7.

And today, it was the girl involved in 8 different activities who "just didn't get it."

At 11/22/06, 11:55 PM, Anonymous Mike said...

Dear Ms. C:

Indeed. I sum all of that up by telling them that it is a simple matter of mathematics. If they do their work, all of their work, and make an honest effort, it is virtually mathematically impossible to fail. To whatever degree they are failing, the cause, and the cure, is directly related to the few component parts of that simple formula.

At 11/24/06, 1:03 AM, Blogger happychyck said...

Only once in my years of teaching have I had a student who chose to quit her job and return her focus to her school work. It meant parking her car in the driveway and walking to school, but it also meant she was able to meet her original goal of graduating with her class. It's too bad that most students miss the big picture and focus too much on the $$.

At 11/12/09, 12:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No offense, but you kinda suck as a teacher, your students must hate you. Why don't you ease up, your students are humans. 'Just a gentle suggestion'.

At 9/27/10, 4:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And learn to love to do your homework. Give yourself incentives for completing your homework-snack after finished your math, or go to the movies on Friday if you get everything finished on Thursday. I elaborate on this a bit on my blog: http://preppedandpolished.com/three-ways-to-get-an-a/

Alexis Avila, Founder of Prepped & Polished


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