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I’m being used for target practice… September 27, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching.
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Have you ever had a student who felt like they were above doing the homework for a class?

I have the problem frequently because my class is required for all incoming freshman.  Somehow, there will be one or two that will fall through the cracks and end up taking it as an upperclassman.  Or maybe they come in as a transfer student and someone thinks it’s a good idea for them to take the class.  This is never a good situation as most of what I have to tell them, they may have already learned by trial and error.  However, in fairness to the other students, I have to make them jump through all the same hoops that they do.

Many times I get the question, “Do you really expect me to do this?”

Yes.  I do.

At which point they roll their eyes.  And tell me they want an A in the class.

The problem, which they don’t seem to realize, is that I have set out standards to which everyone needs to adhere to pass the class.  Everyone has to contract for a grade, so it is abundantly clear what’s expected from them at the very beginning.  If I let the standards slip for them, then I can get called on favoritism.  On the other hand, the assignments are relatively easy that I don’t understand why they don’t just do them and turn them in.  What’s wrong with having an easy class now and again?  Some of these students put more effort into getting out of the assignments than they would if they actually just sat down and did them.

To some extent, I can understand it.  There’s this notion that freshman need this class to succeed.  If they’ve survived for two years already, it’s not unrealistic to think they don’t need the class.  But someone puts them in there, and they claim they can’t get out.  This leaves me stuck with treating them like trained monkeys, and I can understand the resentment.  It does seem like it makes a little bit more sense to have transfers take it, but they don’t resent it any less.

I think the real problem is that they just don’t want to be there, and I’m the only person handy as a target for their frustration.

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Comments»

1. zenandjuniorhigh - September 27, 2012

Anyone who’s ever taught anything ever has been where you’ve been, and it’s absolutely no fun.

You could always do what I call “bringing the hammer” and trot out some hefty consequences for chronic “no-homework” kids. I teach Junior High, and I’ve done that a few times in some really extreme circumstances where I could argue that the lack of work was really an act of passive-aggressive defiance.

I had to have some serious backup from Admin for that, and it was a REALLY extreme circumstance, so I don’t know if I recommend that. What it became, though, was something I could reference later for that, or another kid.

You could try coming up with some positive rewards of some kind for students who do the work of school (take things like deadlines and organization seriously). The only downside to that is that it’s an extrinsic reward over an intrinsic one. But it’s certain to get results.

I’ve sometimes found that students who aren’t doing some of the simple assignments don’t feel challenged. One thought might be to differentiate assignments with something more challenging.

Call home. You may find you get a sudden lift as soon as mom/dad/grandma/whoever finds out their kid isn’t pulling his/her weight. You may also learn things about their homelife that you never wanted to know, but maybe explain why your homework is the furthest thing from the kid’s mind. Not an excuse to not do it, but it may be an enlightening experience.

Above all, stick to your guns, though. You’re clearly good at what you do if you’re sticking with some pretty high standards for your kids. Even if you feel like you’re not getting as much out of them as you like, you’ll get more with high expectations than you will by lowering them.

Hang in there and stay positive. I’ve had “F” kids in Junior High come back and visit me as “A” kids in high school and tell me that they wish I was harder on them, and that they didn’t fully appreciate at the time what I was trying to teach them then. Sometimes it takes years for a student to appreciate that we have high standards because we believe they can meet them, and that it’s really a good thing to have a lot to do. After all, if we didn’t care, would we really bother with all the work that goes in to running that kind of classroom?

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2. Anandi Raman Creath (@anandi) - September 29, 2012

I don’t understand this. Why would they expect to get credit or a good grade if they don’t do the work, regardless of how easy the work may seem? Due to scheduling weirdness and a late change in major, I took a freshman Cell Bio class as a junior at Tech. Yes, it was easy, and yes, it was pass/fail only but I never assumed I didn’t have to do the homework or study for the exams. The mind boggles.

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