Saturday, February 21, 2015

Too Big to Fail

Third quarter is in full swing and I currently have two students that have failing grades and one who is simply not working up to her potential (she has a C).  Like many teachers, I find that low grades in my class can often be attributed to students not turning in work. Since I do not allow failure under my watch, I employ several tactics to get students to turn in missing work.  These tactics include stopping students as they attempt to enter the building and extract missing work from them (I have bus duty), calling parents and conducting teacher-student conferences several times a quarter.

When some of the above tactics fail, I take out my biggest weapon of all: the U.S. Postal Service.  This past week, I ran off copies of the assignments that the three students are missing.  I packed them in an envelope and tucked in a personal letter to each family.  I made sure to mail the envelopes on Thursday to ensure that the students have the entire weekend to work on their missing assignments.  The students never see it coming.  If the past is any indicator, at least one of the three parents will come to school at some point next week to deliver their child's work and thank me.  The remainder of the students will share their disbelief that I would do such a thing in front of the entire class (which serves as a deterrent to the rest of the class).

Many teachers would argue that I am a bit crazy to go to such extreme lengths to get students to turn in work.  After all, isn't failure a part of life?  Of course it is.  However, middle school students are disorganized, forgetful and constantly trying to push boundaries.  This does not make them worthy of failing and most will grow out of it.  My reminders about work as they enter the building often prompt them to remember that their assignment was in their binder or locker all along.  My willingness to call parents and even mail home a letter show them how serious I am about their success and the boundaries are re-established. While failing is part of life, my job is to help students succeed.  When we work together, we're too big to fail.

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