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Own It: Morning Minutes, February 23, 2016

“Morning, Meg.  Did you read?”

“Uh, I only read the first two chapters.  When I have a lot of homework, this class is my safety valve.”

This is not an out-of-the-ordinary conversation in 219.  With four sections of honors language arts, I serve students who are taking mostly advanced courses, which generally translates into their having a lot of homework–at times, overwhelming amounts.  That in mind–and my being flexible to perhaps a fault, I have created, as Meg suggested, an outlet of sorts in 219 for kids when the pressure’s too much.  I always accept late work–without penalty, and importantly, my reactions never go beyond disappointment seasoned with understanding when kids don’t get their work in on time. My class is important–maybe–a little bias here–the most important.  But it is not more important than any of my kids–ever.  And, in the end, that is what I teach: kids.  It just happens that in 219 I do it within the context of language arts.  So, when I make decisions, I make decisions with kids in mind first, then content.

Of course, my approach is not above reproach, for many of my peers think I am ruining kids by being too flexible.  And though there are times when I wonder if my approach is the very best thing for kids, especially when I am dealing with the hassle of late paperwork, my gut keeps me on this particular path, pushing away any lingering doubts about the cost outweighing the benefit.  Deep down I believe that flexibility doesn’t hinder responsibility; it promotes it, for true responsibility comes when individuals have the freedom to discover the implications of their own choices.  I don’t think holding harsh late-work policies over kids’ heads teaches responsibility; I think it only forces compliance, and that is not commitment.  I want my kids to be committed.  I want them to make big-boy and big-girl choices.  And then, I want them to own their choices.  I have found that doing so creates a level of honesty that makes the experiences in 219 genuine, real.

Meg was real with me.  She owned it.  She did only read the first two chapters because those are the only two that she could reference in our discussion yesterday.  She contributed where she could, and respectfully–honestly–bowed out when she couldn’t.  She owned it.  Isn’t that responsibility?

Have a terrific Tuesday.  Thanks for listening.




6 Replies to “Own It: Morning Minutes, February 23, 2016”

  • As a middle school Art teacher who shares your grading policy beliefs, I too get the, “Well, you accept late work and my other teachers don’t, so I’ll do your assignment when I have time this weekend,” bit. Which I am totally fine with! It usually means the work is done with more care and is more developed than it would have been otherwise. What I don’t understand or enjoy hearing is the, “Well it’s just an Art class assignment so my mom makes me do all my other more important homework first.” Since when did work most kids enjoy doing, that actually teaches them something about themselves, become less important than the often less interesting, “required” stuff they get in their other classes? I guess that’s a topic for another blog but it is worrisome to me both as an educator and as a parent. Back to having a flexible late work policy, it has paid high dividends for me personally because the kids are so appreciative of the extra time they get and because it’s one more thing teachers can do to nurture relationships with our kiddos during these stressful times.

  • I have also discovered that kids don’t respond to harsh late work policies that are held over their heads as threats. I’ve made drastic changes since I first started teaching because I realized that many of the decisions I made early on were not in the best interest of my kids. I want my students to take ownership and responsibility for their grade and the progress they make in my class. I’m very honest with my kids about the decisions I make and why I make them. They respond to honesty. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about what we’re going to read or write, grading policies, or even a new cell phone policy I want to try with them. Honesty and respect can go a long way.

  • I think that you have an awesome , valuable, life teaching experience going on in your class room. We as your audience can see this from comments made by some of your peers, your students, parents we hear the heartfelt appreciation they have for the experience they have seen come from their kids having you as a teacher.I am sure that not everyday goes perfectly or as planned. But still I think and feel that the experience coming from Rm. 219 is working in the best interest of the kids , and that is important to me, to them.

  • I think it’s funny when you say that “…many of my peers think I am ruining kids by being too flexible,” when sometimes they’re really the ones ruining us. (If that came out rude, it was totally unintended.)

  • As someone who is majoring in Biology, I have to say that Language Arts was the most important class I had in high school. In all my science classes the professors will review the math and science concepts we need to be successful. But they never go over writing, and we are expected to know how to write a good research paper before we start our coursework.

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