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Friday, September 28, 2007

What's that for?

I italicized the above word because it's important to the question. This came from one of the instructors of the Eastern Iowa Writer's Workshop, which I was privileged to attend a couple of summers ago. I don't know if it's something he coined himself, or if it came out of one of the many inspirational teacher type books he read aloud from. At any rate, from this simple question comes much wisdom. As teachers, parents, human beings, we should often pause and ask ourselves the question, What's that for?
In my classroom, I have students listen to new words and repeat. What's that for? So they can practice good Spanish pronunciation. Good pronunciation leads to being able to spell, since Spanish is a phonetic language.
The students sometimes relate to me what goes on in others' classrooms. I don't encourage it, but sometimes they've just gotta vent. Apparently, one of my colleagues gives only half credit to assignments that do not have the EXACT heading on the paper. Same goes for homework done with 2 different writing utensils- pen ran out, changed to pencil, etc. What is that for? Personally, I don't have that much time in my day or room in my head to be that anal. Perhaps this person has a good reason?
Our instructor told a story of how one of his daughters wrote her name in cursive at the top of one of her papers in first grade- before the teaching of cursive. Her teacher drew a frowny face next to it, I guess because she didn't want her to write in cursive before the Time To Write Cursive. What was that for?
I think it's a good, quick way of doing some self-eval. in the classroom. Assigned an activity? What was it for? Said something to a student? What was that for? Sometimes, I can't come up with a decent answer, and it makes me rethink what I do and say.

9 Comments:

Blogger HappyChyck said...

I love that. I do this quite a bit, particularly when I'm planning lessons and units. I have to justify everything with admin, parents, and students. Nobody will just take things at face value from teachers anymore. I do like it as a life phrase, too. Thanks for sharing!

9/28/2007 6:18 PM  
Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

Hmm...I'd better rethink some of my classroom practices...'cause I'm not sure what they're for!

9/28/2007 9:49 PM  
Blogger What Now? said...

This is really helpful -- thanks. Over the years I've let a lot of picky things go in my assignments and my decisions about what to give credit for or not, because I couldn't really figure out what they were for. It's a good discipline to get into, asking oneself this question on a regular basis. Thanks.

9/29/2007 9:48 AM  
Blogger ms-teacher said...

We have a 7th grade English teacher who absolutely insists that everything turned in is written in pen (blue or black ink) and in cursive.

In our last department meeting, she actually criticized the 6th grade teachers for not doing things exactly like she wants us to them, such as not using proper headings, demanding cursive writing, and students using pens.

Me being me, I had to say something. I told her that because we using pacing guides, as mandated by our district, I simply didn't have time to teach something, such as cursive writing, to our 6th graders. I also told her in a not so nice tone that she was assuming that we didn't have criteria set in place for completed work.

However, I truly wish I would have asked her your question, because I don't think she would have been had a very good response.

9/29/2007 12:11 PM  
Blogger Adeline said...

your comments about the teacher drawing frowny face and the correct heading teacher reminds me of a few lousy teacher I have met. The mentor teacher that would freak out if you TOUCHED the whiteboard with fingers (because it would make a smeary mark) and all other random crap teachers get stuck on.

in our middle school, they will not allow a child to turn in work late. i cannot grasp it. when the kids who don't get their homework in ask if they can turn it in late, because the school has made a big stink about this late work thing, I have to say yes you can turn it in late, but i can not give you any points. I am not sure about this at all, because then the kid will not do the work, period. Though the principal says they have to do the work. I scratch head. I used to give 50% points for late work, a failing grade, but still points. Enough for students to still do it.

What do you think about this no late work thing? I want to believe it will make kids get stuff in on time but I still have kids so immature that they hide behind the pen cart and who are dealing with migrant issues.

9/29/2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger Mrs. T said...

adeline- as far as the late work thing goes, I don't like giving full credit to those ding dongs who repeatedly don't have their homework done on time. I give homework almost daily and I don't collect it, I walk around the room and check to see that it's done, then we go over it together, students are to correct mistakes as we go. I give half credit to anything that's late. I agree- if you give no points then they won't do it, and they really do need the practice.

9/30/2007 11:14 AM  
Blogger ms-teacher said...

This is in response to adeline: I only allow students to make up work if I speak to a parent. I've found that too often students will tell me they want make up work, but never do it. When I speak to a parent, they seem more likely to get it done.

10/02/2007 9:01 PM  
Blogger Adeline said...

Ms teacher...yeah I should be doing massive calls home. I am putting it off. They will get done, but am hoping that I can speak to parents at the conferences and discuss it and save myself some agony. I like talking to teachers in person, not so much over the phone.

50 percent to me seems reasonable. Still failing, but enough to get them to turn it in. It's a big stupid political thing. What about iPods? Why can't that be a schoolwide thing? I have never whined about that before till I felt that something that should be my choice got infringed on. I collect work now, at the beginning of the year still because it tells me what to reteach... but as the year goes on, I will drop off.

10/02/2007 11:08 PM  
Blogger The Vegas Art Guy said...

There are a couple of things I am militant about.

1. No late work. I have 9th graders, they're in big boy school now. They know when things are due and if they decide it's not worth the effort then it's their problem.

2. If there is no name on something, it gets tossed in the trash. I mean please, these are 9th graders and I have 3 honors classes and they are just as bad if not worse about that. Once their grade starts to suffer, maybe they'll get the hint.

Quarter grades go out Monday, should be interesting...

10/25/2007 11:58 PM  

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