Thrown In The Deep End

The musings of brand new high school science teacher

So Frustrated!

I am sure that when I was at school I actually cared about my school work.  I never once asked for an extension on an assignment.  I always handed in my work when it was required, regardless of what that work was.  I didn't even do that at uni the first time round, and I only asked for an extension twice last year when I was doing my grad dip because I was doing 6 subjects (which in hindsight was insane!).

I am wondernig why my grade 10 students are so damn slack when it comes to handing in their work.

The semester grade for my grade 10's is based on 4 pieces of assessment - a test, an exam (no different to a test except it is held during exam week under strict exam conditions), an assignment, and classwork - each worth 25%.

The test results weren't too bad.  The averages for both my classes were 66% and 69%.  I was relatively happy with those but most of the girls could do a lot better.  I am hoping they will do better in the exam in about 8 weeks time.

The assignment, which was due last Thursday, was seriously the easiest assignment I could have given them.  I gave them 3 classes in which to work on it when I was only required to give them 2.  I have assisted them whenever they have asked me for help - even gave them my email address so they could ask me questions outside of class time.  (Not my personal email address - not that stupid!)

Yet when it came to handing it in, only about 60% of the students across my two classes handed in their assignments.  I actually made the ones who weren't handing it in come up to the front of the class and tell me what their excuse was.  I put these excuses into a spreadsheet.

What is so damn frustrating is that they waited until the day it was due to ask me for an extension.  Some gave me hollow promises to have it emailed to me by midnight that same night (only 3 did this), but the frustration mainly came from those wanting an extension at last minute.

Tomorrow is a week since it was originally due, and despite the fact that is the holidays, the girls who haven't handed in their assignments loose 5% each day up to a maximum of 35% of their total mark for the assignment.  35% is a HUGE chunk of what should be an easy mark!  I am starting to wonder how many of them are going to fail the assignment as a result of this 35%...

Now I come to their classwork.  I don't give homework UNLESS something is not completed in class.  I give the girls about a weeks notice of when I am going to collect their books and tell them exactly what I am wanting to be completed.  Doesn't sound hard right?  Well, apparently it is.

A lot of them didn't hand in their books before the holidays.  A large majority of those who did hand in their books haven't finished everything.  I don't ask for much - just that they have an attempt at every question so I can see that they are having a go.  So why is it so hard to get them to do the work??  Their classwork should be the easiest 25% they could get!!

I have been doing some thinking and I believe it just comes down to them being 15 years old.  They are at that age where they don't give a crap about school.  Yet next year they go into grade 11 and if they don't bring their game up to scratch they are going to fall so hard and fast on their faces they won't have time to even put their hands out to try and break the fall.

So I have made a decision.  I am going to shock them a little.  I am going to tell them to pretend that it is the end of the semester and that their reports with their final grades have just been mailed out.  I will then speak to them one at a time and tell them what their final grade is, based on the work they have done so far this semester.  I hope this shocks some of them into doing better work.  A lot of them are going to have failing grades!

But I guess I am also looking for some advice.  If anyone out there knows how to motivate teenage girls into doing the best they can at school, please let me know.  Feel free to offer constructive critism too.
Posted: Wednesday, April 16, 2008 10:16 PM by MissBeaker

MysteryTeacher said:

You make up "bills."  When they don't have an assignment that is due, you hand them a "bill" that says "You have failed to turn in your assignment on time.  You have earned a ZERO.  This teacher does no accept late assignments."

Maybe that will wake them up.  Then DO IT!  After a few incidents, they will wise up or repeat the grade level.

# April 16, 2008 9:58 AM

Betty said:

I think that a lot of students think that turning in work on time doesn't matter, because in some cases, they pass anyway.  Possibly this is because some teachers drop the lowest grades, some parents get involved and make sure late work is accepted, or students are frequently given the chance to bring up their grades at the last minute.  It is difficult to stick to strict policies, especially if the administration is not supportive.  My last principal made a teacher take and grade a project a good three weeks after it was due.  The teacher had contacted the parents and let them know that the assignment was late, but the student still chose not to do it.  When the six weeks grades came out, the girl was failing.  Her parents went to the principal, and he forced the teacher to accept the project and reaverage the six weeks grades.  I agree with Mystery Teacher.  Just make sure you have the support of your principal!

# April 16, 2008 10:39 AM

Mollie said:

I am a first year teacher of 8th grade English, and my team and I have been seeing very similar things.  What I personally have found to work is communication with the parents.  We can take their grades away for not handing in work, but parents can work on a much deeper level with these students.  

Another thing that I have found to be great in helping students be motivated in school, especially for those who shut down when punishment is given, is to just have a relationship with these kids.  I have gotten so that kids will come in after school to tell me about their school issues, behavior issues, and even home issues, and we work together to try to find a solution.  Kids these days (and I can speak to this having been one so recently) have so much on their minds that isn't school - friends, peer pressure, drinking, sex....things that some of us can't imagine having to deal with.  I can't believe some of the things my 8th graders go through.  Sometimes just showing that you care about them, not by talking and blabbing abotu grades and school, but by talking about and to THEM, can be the factor that is missing.  Not to mention that it gives me the warm fuzzy feelnig inside to know that I helped.

Anyway, hopefully that helps.  Believe me, I understand your frustration.  Hopefully it gets better!  

# April 16, 2008 8:49 PM

MissBeaker said:

Thanks guys!  Some food for thought.  Anyway, taking a break from marking the assignments (yes it is a Friday night - I have no life!) so I should get back to it!

# April 18, 2008 6:15 AM
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