On lateness

My days are numbered. 11 to go, and I apologize for not writing as much as usual.

Today marks the beginning of final exams (2 weeks) for OLOG. Last week was review for my kids, so they got practice questions that my co-op had printed off.

The good about practice questions: They were able to chill out and do really easy questions, thus I was able to chill out (kind of).

The bad about practice questions: They were really easy questions that did not test anything I had taught them the last eight weeks. The whole week was a waste of time and energy (and paper).

Something that I have realized while being here is that in the United States we follow the idea that time is something valuable and the more time you spend working on anything—a concept, homework, a paper, reading—the better the payoff (provided you are focused and effectively doing). Many times here I have felt constrained by the lack of time I got to spend with the students (40 minutes 5 times a week), which actually translates to about 25 once you get them settled down because they are not used to a routine instated by good classroom management.

Reflecting on my time here, I feel as if I haven’t ‘done enough.’ I keep saying that to the other Miamians here. “I haven’t done enough.” I feel as if 8 weeks are not long enough, especially with the breaks we have and the breaks OLOG gets.

When I think about ‘doing enough’ I mean ‘seeing an improvement in student learning.’ And this is why: Last week, I had to tell almost every student what work they were missing and then accept it and then grade it. About half of my students had missing work…maybe more. One of them had turned nothing into me the whole 8 weeks. Nothing. And I was supposed to accept it? Yup. Not only accept it, but give feedback. It’s probably the most counterintuitive practice ever because I’m telling the students that they really don’t have to turn work in on time, ever.

Why this makes me upset:

1. It is more work for me without actually facilitating any kind of learning. Students only care about scraping up points at this point.

2. I am reinforcing the idea that students don’t have to do work the whole semester if they can just make it up at the end. Therefore, the amount of instruction they lose along the way just makes my head spin.

3. I am forced to not give thorough feedback—both because I’m ticked off (if my teacher usually accepts late work, I guess I do too) and I simply cannot grade 5 late pieces of writing for each student and do it well.

4. This is the ‘system’ in place to help students pass. Eeeeek.

Why teachers should have a strict policy on late work:

1. If you stay consistent and make no exceptions, you will not have to worry about playing favorites and giving amnesty.

2. You do have to have in your policy a system for certain circumstances—deaths in the family, being human and forgetting, sickness, etc.—-but you state this at the beginning of the school year and follow through with it.

3. It communicates the importance of doing the work while you are on a certain concept or unit in the curriculum. When students are experiencing the unit, they are more apt to understand what’s going on and apply what we are discussing. Believe me, the quality of work I got at the end of the semester was not good.

Obviously I cannot change this entire practice at OLOG. For whatever cultural reason, this is the way it is. I’m thankful, in a way, to solidify what I already believed from a different perspective. I just wish I could have had the time and the structure in place to help more students want to improve their writing. I’m just happy I don’t have to grade those exams, otherwise ya’ll would be in for another rant post, I’m afraid.

Expect more posts about Caye Caulker, Xunantunich, and Dangriga (in pictures).


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