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.

I have survived!

Well, I have survived my very first term as a teacher.  10 weeks.  For the past 2 weeks I have been hanging on by a very thin thread.  I've turned into a cranky cow and I am really not suffering fools - especially those aged between 11 and 16!  I need these 2 weeks off so I can just catch my breath.

I do have a lot of work to do... lots and lots of marking!  And if I feel motivated to do so I will try and plan a good 3-4 weeks of lessons before the first day of term 2.

Despite all that there is one thing I will be doing this holidays... I shall be sleeping in EVERY SINGLE DAY!  I will also have an afternoon nap if I so desire!  Ahhh sleep, how I have missed thee!

So what have I learnt about myself as a teacher this first term...

Here are the not so good points...
  • I'm too soft.  I need to be a lot harder on the girls (have I mentioned I work in an all girls school?) because the amount of respect they are showing me has slipped dramatically over the 10 weeks.
  • I need to give more homework assignments.  I give them time in class to finish the work and then they are expected to finish it before the next time I collect their books.  They aren't finishing the work.  I usually collect a lot of work at once every few weeks but now I am going to collect at least 1 or 2 items a week.  All my classes receive marks towards their final semester grade for their classwork - it should be the easiest marks they can get.
  • I need to do more preparation with regards to certain topics because I hate being put on the spot with questions that I just don't know the answer to.
Here are the somewhat better points...
  • I am fair.  I treat everyone the same which is sometimes hard to do.
  • I enjoy teaching even if I would like to string them all from the ceiling at times.
  • I don't see going to school each day as a job... I just see it as a part of my life that needs to be done.  I proved this to myself when I was as sick as a dog but still went to school.  In any of my previous jobs I would have called in sick for up to a week!  I did have a couple of sick days in my first few weeks but I was really sick and couldn't get out of bed.
  • I have the ability to build a good rapport with most students.
We recently had parent teacher interviews and I received some amazing feedback from the parents.  Their girls had told them I was their favourite teacher.  Their girls now considered science their favourite subject.  It was very nice to hear that I was doing something right because at least once a day I question my ability and question if I am doing it right.

I suppose the test results for all my classes should have told me I was doing ok (very good averages!) but sometimes you need to hear it from someone!

Ok that is enough typing for one day!

Being Sick Sucks!

Today I discovered how hard it is to teach when you have a fever.  I've been fighting off a cold/flu for the past few days and after lunch today (when I finally got to sit down for the first time all day) I started to burn up.  Considering I only had 1 class to teach I decided to soldier on.

All I can say is thank goodness I have a laptop class (all the students in my class have a laptop which is connected to the schools network via a wireless connection... not all classes have laptops) - I just put them to work on their research assignments while I sat at the front of the science lab and told them they had to be nice to me because I was sick.

This is the worst possible time for me to get sick - tomorrow night is parent teacher interviews.  I will be meeting with something like 30 parents in a 3 hour time slot.  It's going to be like speed dating... I am not looking forward to it.  I then have to do it again on Monday because one parent teacher night is just not enough to see everyone!  Joy! *groan*

Overall, I have only good things to say about my students.  Every one of my classes has just recently had tests and I am so happy with the overall performance.  However, there are a few (in grade 10 - 15 and 16 year olds can be impossible!) who need to lift their game if they want to pass this semester.  I didn't want to have to do this to the grade 10s but both my classes will be put into a seating arrangement the next time we are in the lab (currently working on assignments in the computer labs).

So I've been a teacher now for 9 and a half weeks - almost an entire term.  I still love it, even if the students make me want to pull my hair out.  I am sure some of them are going to put me in an early grave, and I do check daily for grey hairs... but despite that, it's all good!

A place to just write...

I was keeping a kind of blog on my Facebook profile but after I started teaching I decided it was probably a good idea to take it down.  Although my profile is highly protected from those students who may go looking, the last thing I want is for one of the darlings to hack into it.  So this is why I have decided to do the anonymous thing.  It's to protect me and my students, for there will be times when I just have to write about what they did and what they said... Smile

However, tonight I shall not be writing much more than this as I have just spent the past couple of hours marking tests and my eyes are sore!  The girls (I teach at a girls school) did really well over all.  They averaged 69%.  I honestly thought they would do a lot worse than that. I am so glad they proved me wrong! 

Good night!