Saturday, October 11, 2008


Homecoming is always a royal pain in the ass. This year was no different. It didn't help matters that I missed two days helping take care of Kenzie. When I was finally able to get back to school on Friday, the annual homecoming insanity was in full swing.

Instead of being able to discuss "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Black Cat" in Lit and Language 11, I was informed by half a dozen students that they needed to get out early to work on their float for the upcoming parade. At least they had the courtesy to come to class and get all the homework over the next week (we don't have school next week since Monday and Tuesday are full of 24 hours worth of conferences).

I thought things would be different with my advanced College Comp classes, but I couldn't have been more mistaken. My third block class had a good turn out, though most of the supposed leaders of the school, the athletes, had better things to do. I think maybe one football player, again, a supposed leader of the student body, who bothered to come in early and get the assignment over break. So next week, they are simply going to be out of luck for that writing assignment. I mean this is supposed to be a college level course, yet they treat it as if they're in freaking middle school or something.

So to combat this, I gave what one of my professors did in college, usually on Friday, when few turned out: a Mickey Mouse quiz. It's simply a reward for showing up. Sad I know.

My fourth block College Comp class was even worse. Apparently, the football players in there found it more important to practice for the upcoming pep fest and volleyball scrimmage (where most wore skin tight spandex and the tucked socks into their crotches for an indecent display. You'd think somebody in charge (pardon the pun) would have the balls to put a stop to such nonsense, but foolishness like this is always allowed to go on during homecoming - remember those dances where females for each class would practically take turns grinding themselves into the gym floor?) than to bother to show up for their assignment. Great student athlete leadership right?

Now, given the apathy illustrated from many students (namely, the supposed leaders, the student athletes), I am going to have to change my policies.

Usually, for every 'theme' my students write, I have them write rough drafts on three separate topics. For example, for the descriptive theme, I had students write about their favorite time of year, their favorite place, and finally a description of whatever they want. Then they are free to choose whatever rough draft they like the best to develop and revise for their final descriptive theme.

I do this to allow them to do not only a lot of writing but also to let them have more freedom over what they want to write about. This way they are not locked into one topic and just one essay.

However, some don't even bother to do these. Instead, they just write one essay for their theme (usually a day or two before it's due), which, of course, defeats the entire purpose.

Instead, now I will be more stringent and be the crusty old teacher who walks around and checks each students draft. They will be given one chance to get points for this. Plus, I will make it requisite that drafts be complete on time in order for them to have a shot at full credit on their final themes. Plus, I will make it requisite that they attend each class period. If they choose to complete just two of the three drafts and they attend only seven of ten days, then their final scores will suffer.

Now, honestly, I think this is kind of hogwash. I agree with a study I was part of that found one big problem with high school writers struggling in college is that they aren't rewarded just on the final project. Too many high school teachers grade them on the writing process or give extra credit. As I said, I happen to agree with this. In college, if a student doesn't have to work as hard in class because they are incredibly gifted and they can crank out a superb effort in one night's work, then so be it. Likewise, if a student really struggles at writing and they have to put in work in class every day and each night to just get an average grade on their essays, then so be it.

I would love to adopt that attitude in my College Comp class, but I'd have too many students struggling far too much. They just aren't ready for that type of responsibility.

Hopefully, I can put them to the coals for awhile like this and they can learn to show up every day and to complete the assignments. Not too much to ask is it? But you'd be surprised how many of my supposed college level students are struggling.


fellowteacher said...

I agree homecoming week can become "screw off" week, but come on, you are a teacher and coach and talk so negatively about sports and school pride. I realize students will always push the limits, and some teachers and administrators even encourage it, but homecoming week should not be condemned whole heartedly. Also, on the college class, I skipped many a college class and still received A's in them.

TeacherScribe said...

Now this it the type of feedback I've been waiting for.

As with anything school related, about 80% goes over very well, but then again you have a minority that spoils the 20%.

I do talk negatively about sports and school pride because that is not only how I perceive it, but how many of my colleagues perceive it. I'm not anti sports or school pride. I just want to see it done correctly.

The problem with all of these 'extra' things - prom, homecoming, rehearsals, sno-fest . . . - is that they detract from the #1 goal of a school - the intellectual life of students. I fear far, far too little time is focused on that.

If everyone ran their programs as our football or choir programs here were run, I'd stop my rants.

Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy homecoming -- see my blog about eating cow tongue. When it's done right, it's a memorable experience for all the right reasons. But when a few idiots wreck it, well then it's still a memorable experience but for the wrong reasons.

As a teacher, I just can't condone kids bailing out on a class. I was not gifted enough to skip in college and still earn A's - even though I was an education major (which we all know is not like being a bioengineering or chemistry major). I am quite proud of the work I put it too.

Just last week I spoke to my college class about when I was an RA my senior year at BSU. There was a kid from Jamestown who lived just down the hall. He chose to attend about a third of his classes. The rest of his time was spent playing Super Nintendo and getting high. He last exactly one quarter and then was shipped back home.

Attendance is vital for these kids, especially when they are still in high school. Especially, when I poor myself into my classes and evaluating their papers. Then they give me a half-hearted effort? Especially when they have elected to take a harder class? I can't tolerate that. (one of my seniors went home and told his father about that story. The next day, he said, "Man, my dad can't wait to meet you." I think kids need to be held accountable and hear about what happens when things slide out of control)

Besides, if they get to college and want to skip, fine. They're footing the bill and making that decision in college. But when they're still in high school -- call me old school -- but I still think they should man up and attend class. If they develop bad habits as juniors and seniors, what will happen when they really get to college?