In the past 24 hours there has been a LOT of discussion about the issue of “giving zeroes” as marks when tasks are incomplete. I’m still not convinced that zeroes should never be used.
I consider myself to be a good teacher.
I’m not a “chalk-and-talk” teacher at all.
I use best practices including cooperative learning and differentiated instruction. You’ll see students in my class regularly using think-pair-share, jigsaw, placemats, four corners, ranking ladders, mind maps, concept maps, etc.
I offer my students tons of choice in how they demonstrate what they know to me. Tasks almost always offer choice and, if they don’t, my students know that they can “float” other options of ways to demonstrate their learning to me at any time.
I use technology a lot and I let my students use technology a lot (ask anyone who has shared a sign-out sheet for laptop carts, computer labs, smartboards, projectors, document cameras, Senteos or CPS units, etc. with me). I have a classroom blog which I use to communicate with parents/guardians and students, but which I also open up to allow both partes to communicate with me and each other.
During the first week of school, we (my students and I) determine their key Multiple Intelligences (MIs) and preferred learning styles and we refer back to that data throughout the year when planning tasks or activities. I also teach my students how to advocate for themselves regarding their MIs and learning styles (so that some of what we learn together about their preferred ways of learning move with them…not relying solely on pieces of paper like past report cards or IEPS to relay this vital information to their future teachers).
I communicate with parents/guardians constantly throughout the year (agendas are completed by my students and signed by me every day, our classroom agenda board is updated daily, agenda items are updated on our class website daily, incomplete work is recorded and tracked in a log book and each student’s page from that book is sent home for signature regularly, student portfolios go home every two weeks for parent/guardian signature, calls are made regularly to homes both to discuss concerns and celebrate successes).
I make myself available regularly for students before, during and after school hours, for students who need extra help, time to catch up or maybe just a quiet place to work. I’ve been known to have students from other classes take advantage of these opportunities with me too.
I attend extracurricular activities and events of my students when asked; in fact, I recently spent 5 hours at a baton-twirling competition to watch a former student perform. I’ve been to hockey games, soccer games, dance recitals, charity bbqs…you name it. If they ask me, I will come.
I use multiple forms of assessment to determine where my students are at throughout the year….checklists, rubrics, peer assessment, self-assessment, small tasks, larger projects, tests.
I allow my students input into tasks, activities and assessment tools that are used in my classroom. Sometime we build these together. Sometimes I revise things “on the fly” based on student input received.
I use previous student feedback to “tweek” tasks, activities and assessment tools that are used in my classroom. It’s very rare that you’ll see an identical assignment, task or assessment tool used twice.
I regularly attend workshops, visit other classrooms and conduct research to refine my teaching practice.
I get to know my students as people. We talk about their lives, dreams, hopes, wishes, etc. …regularly.
I love to laugh and I love to hear my students laugh too.
I truly believe that school should be a fun place for my students and me. If we’re not having fun while we learn together, we’re doing something wrong….and we fix it.
I belong to an incredible PLN that inspires me each and every day.
And yet, despite all of my efforts, I have had classes recently where >=50% of my students remain disengaged and fail to complete the short tasks that I wish/need to assess.
In a perfect world, I could live with that too, because I would “chase” those students, and involve their parents/guardians and my administrators until those students adequately completed those tasks and celebrated their personal success.
“Mrs. Carl, just give me a zero” is something that I will never accept from a student.
There are many reasons (many of them valid) why students don’t complete tasks. Here are just a few that I’ve encountered recently:
- they don’t feel like it; they’re not in the mood
- they can’t find a pencil (10-15 students without pencils each day…you stop handing them out and their peers stop lending them too)
- they don’t see the point; “when will I ever use this again?” (because let’s face it folks, how often does a person need to create a parallel line, using a protractor and a perpendicular bisector of the first line, in everyday life?)
- they’re exhausted or burnt out because quite frankly their home life and support system is atrocious
- they’re hungry and can’t think/concentrate properly as a result
- they’d rather socialize than do any work while at school
- they are masters of manipulating both their home and school environment…it takes months for things they haven’t done to catch up with them
- they’re exhausted or burnt out because they were up texting or chatting on Facebook all night….most of their peers in the class are too, because that’s who they were exchanging texts or chatting with until the wee hours
- they’re afraid to ask for help
- when they ask for help, they don’t get it
- they don’t like the task (it’s tough to keep everyone happy and engaged all the time…just ask a class what they want to do for gym on any given day and you’ll see what I mean)
- they think they’ll still likely move to the next grade, whether they complete any work or not
- it’s not cool to be smart
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but you get my point right?
There are lists of possible reasons why parents/guardians and administrators can’t always help with the issue of incomplete student work too.
All of this being said, when report card time rolls around and those students have not completed any or all of the tasks that I’ve provided to them, what exactly should I do to put a mark on that report card? (And for those who say they don’t use marks, or don’t give zeroes, what do you put on those report cards?)
I was just talking to a teacher friend of mine tonight about this whole zero mark issue. She has had a class recently, similar to the ones I describe above that I’ve had, where many students simply won’t do any work. She, too, considers herself a good teacher and would describe her teaching practice in a similar fashion to the way I’ve described mine above. At the end of our discussion, she summed it up beautifully: “In the end, Lisa, you can lead a horse to water, but…….”
I finish that sentence off with “….what if you can’t make it drink?”
And lately, she and I have had quite a few parched horses in our classrooms….