Wednesday, October 04, 2006

the Mean and Disappointed Teacher

I was off on Friday- took the day to drive North to see family. Left my students with a sub and a simple, straightfoward task. A vocabulary activity for all of my students, and for my IB (like honors or) higher level classes also a lab analysis task.

When I returned to my classroom I found that NO ONE had completed the vocabulary activity. And that the students in the IB level class had been "sharing" answers for their solo activity. So needless to say, their first day back included a visit from the "mean and disappointed teacher." I gave them a lecture on ethics. I gave them their grades (which reflect the disappointed thing, and were certainly mean). And then I gave them a quiz on the vocabulary...Needless to say, it didn't go very well...when I checked my email this morning, I had this message....

Ms. H,
If you're reading this, it shows that you care. I've had incidents in the past where teachers wouldn't listen to me especially in a state of frustration such as the one you might be in right now based on how you were at the beginning of class today. This email may mean nothing to you but I just needed to type it.
On that note, I feel at least partially responsible for a good portion of the class not completing the math section of the lab analysis on Friday, although it was really a group effort. I was one of the first, if not the first, people to reach that point in the assignment. I started trying to use the section in the yellow packet to try and figure it out and began to get confused. As more people reached that point, they did the same thing and when they couldn't figure it out they would ask me if I knew how to do it. It kept building like that until a good portion of the class reached a concensus that noone knew how to do it. We were hoping that you seeing that noone had completed it would show you that no one knew how to do it and I'm sure at least some of us were shocked when you saw it as a lack of effort.
Secondly, regarding the issue of matching answers on the analyses. There were several groups of students bouncing ideas off of each other's heads and they weren't the students who had no idea what they were doing; they just wanted to check with someone else. I understand that everyone was supposed to work on their own but, with all do respect, I don't see how you could truly expect that out of ANY class, even a top tier IB class. In particular, I remember a question that involved spectroscopes. People were on their own programs trying to figure out what a spectroscope was and no one could find it. I managed to come up with a reasonable guess as to what it was. Others then started to ask me if I had found it and I told them the truth, that I hadn't but I had a guess. I guess that some might have copied my guess word for word. However, shortly after that, T was able to find a dictionary definitition which some people may have directly copied. Again, these people werent' clueless, they just couldn't find the definition.
At this point, you might think that I'm feeding you crap and I don't know how else to say it but I'm not. I also don't want you to see me as a tattle-tale or even a traitor, just because I stepped up and said something. I feel that your punishment based on Friday was extremely harsh although I now realize that I should have expected. Even the quiz today, I think was unfair. I worked the whole class on Friday and I still did not finish the assignment. However, I don't expect you to change anything, I just really wanted you to hear the other side.
Thank you,

Now, of course I felt this deserved a reply, I mean the kid had the balls to say I thusly replied


Thank you for being adult enough to admit to your part in the problems from Friday. I recognize that the assignment was quite large and no one was able to finish it in the class period...but what you need to know is that I chose something that had all the answers in either the red text or your class text, and something that was significant for your learning. This work was not the typical sub-lesson busy work, I value your time and education too much.

Working on your own was a clear expectation, that you as a group chose to not follow directions is not something I can help with, but the consequences are such that you should be aware of, they will follow you throughout your time in the IB program. Please know that I can see how you could/would bounce ideas off of each other, but confirming your thought process does not mean that the entire answer is identical for more than half of the class (down to the punctuation).

Now, to answer your questions on the quiz....if I had wanted to be truly harsh, I would have let your grades stand as they were at that first taking. However it is crucial that you know those terms, and it will leave you in an even more difficult situation should you not get them. Which is why I am letting you finish the vocabulary and retake the quiz..

I appreciate that you are letting me know how you felt about the situation. Please do not feel I am attempting to minimize that. Just know where I am coming from as well.

that is about it....more to follow sooner or later
let me know what you think.