educhum sos

Educhum SOS: Failure Rate

I need help reducing the percentage of students who fail my class. I’m at all loss and don’t know what else to try.

Background: 

  • Last year I routinely had failure rates of 30%+ and no one said a word to me until the end of the year despite 20% being the “allowed” percentage of failures.
  • We had a low matriculation rate that the campus admin identified as “lack of support systems to help students be successful” and made that a campus goal for the year. 
  • Despite no warnings or supports or interventions, my failure rate factored into my TTESS evaluation. Whatever, I still got “developing” which is not bad for a 2nd year teacher.
  • This year, assuming my ability to improve this would factor into my TTESS again I made some changes and implemented some new systems. 
  • Our department got a new admin in charge of us who I overall like better and she will be my new TTESS evaluator, assuming she is still over us next year.
  • Today right before lunch I get an email request for a meeting with this admin. I see her on my way to lunch and ask- she says the meeting is about my failure rate.

The Meeting:

  • She did not bitch at me or try to make it like “what are you doing wrong”. It was definitely approached as a “I want you to be successful, I want the kids to be successful, and overall this is a problem because it creates more work for you, for me, and for the counselor (who definitely works way too hard). So how can I help you?”. I appreciate this approach as this is not how it was approached last year.
  • I now have to meet with this admin every single week for 20 min. during my first planning period of the week.
  • She wants me to cut the number of students who fail my class in half. I think that’s a fairly reasonable goal.
  • 39 students failed my class, which is 26%. 

The Issues:

  • On one hand, I feel vaguely encouraged that what I have implemented has reduced my failure percentage already. But ultimately I feel discouraged because my growth has not really been acknowledged, but at the same time I don’t really want to tell this new admin to look into how bad my failure rates were last year.
  • The ultimate problem/what’s causing students to fail is they are not turning in work. They collect their make up work when they miss and then never turn it in. They waste time in class, take assignments home to finish them, and never bring them back.

What I’ve Already Done:

  • Changed the way assignment categories are weighted
  • Automatically drop the lowest quiz grade, the lowest daily grade, and the lowest homework grade
  • Implemented a missing work system where students collect their work from a file folder at the front. (Students do collect their work but then don’t turn it in).
  • invited parents to class dojo myself (instead of sending the papers home) and communicate with them through dojo about grades and behavior. (The problem here is only a small number accepted the invite and a handful of those parents never look at the messages I send.)
  • Last grading cycle specifically I gave: 2 extra credit opportunities, 2-3 make up work days in class, and a free homework 100 to every single student.

So far all we’ve agreed on is using our meeting each week to call parents, giving PLC time to call parents, and 9 students that I’m willing to do grade change forms for if they make up their work (that I now have to compile for them…). We talked about a “ZAP / Zero’s Aren’t Permitted” system where kids who have missing assignments have to sit in ISS and do them, but we couldn’t come up with a process for that that didn’t create a ton of work on the teachers. I tossed out the possibility of using Remind 101 to send out reminders about due dates, but she didn’t seem keen on that. (She kinda gave the impression that she didn’t think that would make a big impact.)

So what else do I do? The admin kept asking “how can I help/support you?” but I didn’t know what to tell her…. How can you force students to turn work in?

Lies I tell to small children while teaching

Wearing pants is important.

We don’t tease our friends. We speak kindly do them.

We don’t talk about our undies in public.

Guys, it’s just a fart. There’s nothing funny about farts.

Grown ups eat fruit and veggies every day.

The Mom Drawer

I know that last fall we had a post going around about the Mom Drawer. I wanted to bring it back for two reasons - to see what people keep in theirs so I can get new ideas, and for any new educhums who might be interested in the idea.

What’s the Mom Drawer? It’s a desk drawer that some teachers have that kids can use if they need something personal. Teaching high school, I keep things like tampons and pads, gum, dental flossers, hand sanitizer, peanut butter crackers and granola bars, band-aids, etc. Kids know it’s there and that all they need to do is ask if they can use something from the Mom Drawer.

If a student frequently needs a snack or hygiene products, it also lets me know that they might need a more general check-in. Two years ago, I had a mid-semester transfer student getting a snack almost every day; after some digging, we found out that his uncle (who was his reluctant new guardian) wasn’t buying food unless he was planning on being home to eat too, and he never sent lunch money in or did the free and reduced forms, so the kid was eating meals maybe four times a week. Guidance got him free lunch and enrolled in the weekend backpack program, as well as a social worker, which he desperately needed. So you can get some good information from it, too.

So, educhums, what would you put in your Mom Drawer? Any new ideas?

Today a student asked if I had an iPhone charger, and I held up my frayed, shitty one that I keep in my classroom as a back up for my own phone. It only works about half the time so I just told her that it doesn’t work, sorry.

Without missing a beat, another student looked at my frayed, shitty iPhone charger and said, “Teacher salary be like” and I fucking lost it.

Well played, kid.

Educhums, I need help.

I know I don’t post a lot. Being a first year teacher is overwhelming. I’m sorry you all don’t know me as well as I know you all from following you. But I have a problem.

It’s the beginning of the third month, and I’ve already become the teacher who yells to get my way. The kids are scared of me. My relationships with most of the kids are in the toilet. I don’t know what to do.

Send help.

  • Housemate: Oh, what are you cooking?
  • Me: Playdough.
  • HM: What?
  • Me: We're comparing fractions this week, and the kids need something they can physically manipulate and they've already cut and folded paper several times, so I thought we could use playdough. But I don't have any at school at the moment, so I'm making some.
  • HM: I didn't realise that was in teachers' job descriptions.
  • Me: I mean...I guess it's not technically. We just kind of...find ourselves doing these things.
  • HM: Your job is kind of weird, isn't it?
  • Me: When I stop and think about it, yeah, it really is.

Two stories from 7th period this week-

Me: *teaches trick/trash/treasure strategy for multiple choice questions with modeling and guided practice, then releases them to practice in pairs*

Every student: *actually working, discussing, using the text to argue with each other* “no that’s the trick because….” “yeah but over here it says…” “why is that trash?” “Because it’s not about his personality like the question asks for” etc. Etc.

Me: *actually has time to go over the questions when they finish* So how can we rephrase this question?

Students: *all volunteering answers*

Me: good, those were all good ways to rephrase the question. *repeats a couple of the best ones* which choices were trash?

Almost all the class: b and d!

Me: right. Why are those trash?

Students: *all shouting over each other*

Me: hold up, hold up, let’s take them one at a time. Why is d trash?

Several students: he’s not persistent, ms.! He lets her get away!

Me: why is b trash?

Several students: same thing, he let her get away.

Me: good, so we’re left with a and c. Which one was the trick?

Class: *shouts out, split about 50/50, and immediately starts trying to shout out explanations*

Particular student: *bangs hand on table* WHAT? Ms! No! No, ms. Look. Ms, look, it says. It says, ms, right HERE *jabs finger at paper* it says, “he wanted a second chance”-

Other student: “But-” *stops when I hold a finger up telling her to let him finish*

Student: -so if it says right here that he wanted a second chance, c has to be right! It can’t be the trick! Explain to me how it’s a trick!?

Me: *nods to acknowledge him, but gestures for other student to continue because I heard her explain it correctly to her group earlier*

Other student: but the question asks about his personality and wanting a second chance is not a personality trait, but being shy and insecure is.

Third student: plus! If we look at why he wanted the second chance, we’re still lead to a because he wanted the second chance to be confident like all the other guys there, so we know he’s shy and insecure.

Me: *turns back to original student, who still looks pretty incredulous* remember when I told y'all that sometimes trick answers are extra tricky because they’re technically right but another answer choice is better? *he nods* you are absolutely right that he wanted a second chance, but it is not the best answer because we have to look at why he wanted the second chance and because wanting a second chance is not a personality trait when the question asks what we learned about his personality in paragraph 7. *he nods again*


——————————————-


Me: *giving directions* …. ok, so we’re gonna listen to the audio and I’ll pause it where I want you to write your annotations-

Student 1: wait, ms, can’t we read it? I want to read.

Several students: yeah, I want to read too. Can I have a turn?

Me: um, yeah, sure, if y'all wanna read it outloud we can do that. Um, ok, so what we’ll do is, I’ll tell each person where to read to and after each person, that’s where you write your annotation.

Everyone: *agrees*

Me: *finishes other directions* we ready? Ok, [student 1] you did ask first, read just the first paragraph please.

Several students: can I read second? *arguing ensues*

Me: y'all! We can read like this if you’re gonna argue over who reads next. I’ll get to everyone.

Class: *immediately settles down and student 1 reads paragraph one* *the second she stops, hands go up, begging to read next begins, almost to the point of arguing again*

Me: *quiets them with a teacher look* write your annotations, please. *they do* ok, so, like I said, I’m gonna call on random people to answer some questions… *pushes random on class dojo* [student], what do you think the woman is going to do to him? *several students try to answer, but I stop them* [student]?

Student: *answers* , *immediatly several students start chiming in again*

Me: *ignores them and randomly selects 2 more students to answer the same question, THEN cycles back and calls on all the students that want to volunteer their answers.*


The rest of the passage continued in EXACTLY the same way, except they stopped trying to verbally ask to read next- they raised their hands eagerally and looked hurt and offended every time they weren’t who I called on, and I had to promise Every. Single. Time that I would get around to everyone that wanted a turn, which I did.


——————————————-


Y'all.

Y'ALL.


This is the same class period that was so goddamn engaged in the fucking SYLLABUS that we suddenly only had 15 min left of our (slightly shotened that week) 90 min block to read an annotate a poem and do a coloring activity with it.


You read that right. They spent an entire HOUR discussing and asking questions about a SYLLABUS.


These are freshmen, grade 9, 14-year-olds. I’ve never seen a class like this, not since my AP lit class in high school, and especially not at this school- not even at the AP level at this school, it’s unheard of. I tell other teachers who have been working there much longer than I about this stuff and they just stare at me in genuine shock for a second. Like, not exaggerating.


I think god/the universe/fate/what have you must have sent me a gift. Without this class, I’d probably go insane this year. My on-level classes are way too big and campus/district level expectations are frankly ridiculous, I’m now the lead ESL teacher for the building which means extra meetings on top of the poorly structured other meetings I have to attend, I’m also sponsoring an academic uil team which has gotten a surprinsing level of interest… all while trying to plan my wedding.

Remember in the summer when you were a kid and someone would say “what grade are you in?” and you’d awkwardly stutter and say “third, well going into fourth..”?

That’s how I feel now…
Anyone: “What do you do?”
Me: “I’m a teacher!”
A: “What do you teach?”
Me: “Uh, well, I’ve been a Deaf Ed teacher my whole career, but this year I’m teaching high school English and ASL??”

2

I made these for my kids to give out to their teachers, because I feel like the people who should be thanking us never actually know it’s Teacher Appreciation Week. And I had a million other (really pressing, time sensitive) things to be doing this week, but the three hours and $6 I spent on it made me feel so good. 180 cards delivered (some by me, some by the kids) and only one other teacher knows it was me.

Y’all ready for a joke one of my students told me today? Okay here it goes…

A cop stops an old lady for driving too slow. When he asks her why she was going so slow, she points to a sign and says, “I’m just following the speed limit.”

The officer looks at the sign and says, “Ma’am, that sign says Hwy 35.” He then notices that all of the passengers appear to be terrified, so he says, “Why does everyone in the car look so scared?”

The lady responds with, “We just got off Highway 95.”