I bet you’re thinking, "Now why don’t he write?"

I’m sorry. Hopefully I can give a bigger, more detailed update soon. However, I’m tired. Between the start of fantasy football season and working, it’s been a busy time. My students decided that turning in work in my class was optional. So, I have had to send calls home via our automated system and issue detentions to half, or more, of the kids.

This shouldn’t surprise me as their transcripts show that more than half of them have failed at least one year of English.

So, after a week of the calls home, my cajoling, and some parent phone conferences, students are turning in work and grades are going up. And, I’m grading for about four hours each night at home (yeah, teachers have such cushy work schedules) and also on the weekend. And, during classes, I grade and give feedback. The good news is that I really feel like some of the kids are actually learning things. And, I am getting a feeling that kids who traditionally fail are thinking they have a chance to pass.

I sit with kids and explain their grades to them. We discuss their progress toward the standard. Interestingly, I have not heard a single kid say, “Why is my grade so low?!” They seem to get that the grade is based on how much they have demonstrated they have learning. And, that’s cool. It’s cool because they feel like it’s fair and the grade tells them what they need to do to improve. I dig that part.

Today after school, I had a kid in detention who had finally turned in his late essay. We went over the standards and the grades for them. And, this student said, “So, I can rewrite this and make it better?” I answered affirmatively. He nodded. “Okay, i’m going to do that. I think I know how to do that.” He was motivated to learn more because the grading system is not punitive. And, that, I think is super cool.

The hard thing teaching class this way is that I spend so much time in one-on-one conversation with kids over their work. I do make an effort to circle the class at least twice per period and ask most, if not all, students how they’re doing. I think I have only done direct instruction about three times in the last five weeks. It’s a pretty big shift and I think it’s working.

Also cool? The kids are struggling, in a good way, to learn to analyze and evaluate their reading. Which is rigor, dude. Some are getting it and others are doing battle, fighting to get it. And, that I seriously love. They bring me summaries and we discuss why that isn’t what the standard is looking for and then I reteach the concept and they go back and try again.

More to come.

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