Tag Archives: Transparency

We’re coming up on the semester in my district, and it’s a good time to take stock of the year so far and think about opportunities to make changes.  So far nearly all of my teachers have been working in triage mode, responding reactively to address needs as they arise, always working to prevent getting overwhelmed.  They tend to move from one problem to the next with a high degree of presentism.  Similarly, I’ve been working reactively with my teachers, targeting those teachers that I perceive to have the highest needs, and trying to get everyone to a baseline of “this job is doable” before deeply pushing practice.  I want to change this in the second semester both for myself and the teachers I work with so that we can push a more philosophical and transformational approach to developing a teaching persona.

To this end I’m scheduling midyear reflection meetings with each teacher. In each of these meetings I’m specifically blocking out time to move our discussions away from the day to day issues and to look at first semester holistically, then setting focus areas for our work in the second semester.  In light of my previous thoughts on structuring discussion, I’ve put together a template for the discussion, something of a hybrid between open discussion, and a formal protocol.

The process works as follows with room for individual variation:

Step 1: Begin with an informal post winter break check-in to reestablish the teacher/coach relationship.

This is a quick way to reconnect and remind teachers that I am focused on supporting them as an individual person within the teaching role.  They are a human being first, and a teacher second.  A trusting relationship is essential to all of our work together, and therefore I need to remember to deliberately inject micro moments of relationship building into the process.  I cannot simply jump straight into the work and assume that a relationship will follow.  I need to intentionally build collegiality and trust so that my teachers will feel comfortable being vulnerable with me.

Step 2: Explain purpose of mid-year reflection.

The purpose of the meeting is to explicitly step away from the day to day, reactive, work of teaching.  Put aside the discipline issues, step away from evaluations, and put down the grading.  By stepping back like this we are able to get a more holistic perspective to the work, and we can move in a more proactive direction.  This wider perspective is commonly lost on teachers, and they are unable to see bigger patterns in their work due to a myriad of immediate needs.

In addition to the shift in focus, the timing of the meeting is highly intentional.  I am a big proponent of making change immediately once a need is identified, however, some changes (such as a change to grading system) need to wait until the semester.  Additionally, my teachers with semester classes have a chance to completely reset the structure of their course.  With a structured conversation that reflects on first semester, and makes plans for second semester, I can help teachers put their desires into practice at a logical time while continuing to act against the sentiment of, “next year I’d like to…”

Step 3: Move into a reflection on successes to date.

I specifically address successes before areas of growth because of how infrequently my teachers discuss their own success.  Whether from a sense of humility, high standards, or a lack of perspective my teachers rarely lead with discussing their successes.  Self-critique is far more common.  While thoughtful critique of areas of growth is extremely important, it is also important for my teachers to be able to identify and name their areas of strength.  This serves to boost teacher morale at a difficult time in the school year, as well as to improve teachers’ reflective accuracy.  Appropriately identifying areas of strength and success, is equally important to identifying weaknesses when building a teacher’s ability to self- assess.

In practice, I find that teachers have many more success than they initially give themselves credit for.  By taking the time to think critically about success, and not just failure, we can investigate how to maintain successful practices, and how to extend those patterns of success into new areas of instruction.  This serves as an important foundation for creating longterm patterns of growth.

Step 4: Ask teacher what they would like to add to their list of successes.

I’ve found great success wording the transition from discussing success to growth as “now that you’ve identified your success so far, what would you like to add to the list?”

This question does two things that benefit the teacher.  Initially, this wording honors the list of success and places value on them.  There is an agreement between teacher and coach that the previously identified successes are valid.  This confirmation is an important piece of feedback that helps teachers improve their self-reflection.

Secondly, there is an assumption inherent in the question that it is possible to grow the list of success, thus reinforcing a growth mindset.  This is a subtle move, and extremely important.  Continued growth is an essential component of success, and I want the teacher to work from an assumption that these are workable goals.  When I, as a coach, assume that my teachers are capable of growth, it makes it easier for them to grow in those areas.  This is also an act of modeling.  I show that I operate with an assumption of continued growth, and teachers can take that into their working in the classroom to help students grow.

Step 5:  Explore how to begin making progress toward those new items.

This is the step where we move from the reflective stage into practical planning.  We prioritize from the collaboratively generated list of ideas, and start to lay out the steps by which these areas will be developed.  This step is highly differentiated based on the specific needs of the teachers, but the goal is to turn the plans for growth into a reality.  The process can vary from a few simple interventions where a teacher needs exposure to new ideas, or it can be a more involved process that requires a teacher to think deeply about their identity as a teacher, and what that means for how to structure their classroom.

So far this process is going well.  I am only part way through my caseload, and I am seeing meaningful gains.  For some teachers this includes managing difficult teaching assignments, for some it is establishing more collegial relationships with their co-workers, and for others it is finding the personal strength to forge their own path despite external pressure to conform.  I am hoping that these midyear meetings will establish the focus I found lacking in the first semester.  I also hope that from our first semester work my teachers are empowered with the skills needed to work through many of the smaller issues with teaching more independently, thus allowing me to focus on developing their persona as a teacher and honing the more philosophical aspects of the profession through the second semester.

I would normally say that I don’t believe in protocols for structuring discussion.  Oh they work.  But I don’t need them.  They work for other people.  I know how to participate in and lead discussion. I don’t need the strict structure.  In fact, the strict method of a protocol just gets in the way of quality conversation.  My mind got changed last week.

As part of a series of professional learning my district has the fortune of working with Mark Church from the Harvard Project Zero and Visible Thinking.  The first part of his work is rooted in the power of protocols for structuring conversation around difficult topics.  In our first session Church had participants practice a protocol for sharing aspects of our practice (in this case a success).  It works in groups of at least three participants as follows:

  1. The presenter tells the story of their success (3 minutes)
  2. The listening group members ask clarifying questions of the presenter (5 minutes)
  3. The listening group members discuss why the presenter was successful (5 minutes)
  4. The presenter reflects verbally on what they heard in step 3 (3 minutes)
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the remaining group members

I entered into the protocol with minimal faith in it’s effectiveness, however, being a good student, my group committed to following the protocol with fidelity.  I was very happy to have my initial cynicism proven wrong.  In both the listener and presenter role I learned a great deal about myself and my colleagues and found the protocol to be extremely effective.

When I was in the listener role I discovered how one of my colleagues defines success.  For her success is a partnership.  When she collaborates, or when she can find teamwork she is successful as a mentor.  She is successful when the whole group succeeds.  As she was describing her success in step one I immediately found myself relating her story back to my interactions with her and many puzzle pieces began to slide into place.  This process helped me understand how central collaboration is to her, and this should help me work more effectively with her in the future because I understand her values more completely.

The listener role also helped me definite my own success to share when I took the presenter role.  Initially I was unable to come up with a success that I though was worthy of discussion.  When my colleague shared her success, and defined her process for helping her teacher, I was able to apply that to my own practice and redefine what I thought of as “good enough.”

The presenter role was much more difficult than the listener role for me.  I found that in order to share a legitimate success I had to be extremely vulnerable and trust my teammates.  This is where the protocol proved its worth.  Since I knew that I had time to explain my story (3 minutes) and that there was built in time for clarifying questions (5 minutes), I was confident that my colleagues would not get the wrong impression, and if there was a miscommunication it could be rectified.  This knowledge helped me relax into the process and allowed me to share more authentically.  Additionally I found the time when the 2 listening members of the group to be incredibly empowering as my colleagues found more aspects of success in my story than I had initially identified.

The result of the entire process was that I was able to understand my own success more completely and I was better able to see the value in my colleagues’ work.  This is an enormous gain for very minimal output.  I am confident that if Church had said “share about your successes” we would have had a much less productive conversation.  The protocol forced me out of my comfort zone by forcing me to listen without responding, and by forcing me to share about my successes, and I am better for it.

It’s mid-October and the reality of the school year has set in.  The leaves are turning, the weather is getting colder and wetter, and darkness is creeping up around the edges of the day.  School is reestablishing itself as a consistent pattern in students’ lives.  This is when cracks begin to show.  Don’t fear the reset.

Teachers begin the year with the best of intentions: “This is the year that I’ll be planned out a week in advance.”  “This year, I’ll get it will all come together and run smoothly.”  These intentions are even more extreme with new teachers.  The optimistic, excited idealism, while helpful in August preparations, can quickly become battered, and worn by mid-October.  The young teacher easily falls into a repetitive funk, realizing the routines and procedures they established in September are insufficient.  It is a quick step into a swamp of cynicism leading to the laments of Cubs fans the world over: “maybe next year will be better.”

You are not a victim of Cubs’ management.  This is your classroom and you have the autonomy to take matters into your own hands.  Reset the classroom expectations.  Right now.

“Right now?  How do I make the time? I’ve got all this content to cover.”

There is a assumed need to justify time spend on non-curricular topics. We are expected to teach routines at the beginning of the year and there is a perception that once taught, they shouldn’t be revisited.  After all, if it was done correctly, the students should know the expectations.  Right?

It can feel like a step backward to revisit proper bathroom procedure six weeks after you thought you had it established, but we need to remember that anything new takes practice and repetition in order to become habitual. As adults, how often do we need to be reminded to go to the gym or eat healthy before it becomes a normal part of our lives?  Students need time and repetition as well.

Teaching routines, procedures, and expectations is not a deviation from curriculum.  Classroom procedures work in the service of curriculum and help the classroom function more smoothly, allowing for maximum effective use of limited time.  If these routines and procedures break down midway through the year they need to be repaired.  You are not losing time by revisiting routines.  Quite the opposite.

If it is broken: fix it.  A routine that’s slipped from consistent to inconsistent is no longer a routine, and it needs to be reestablished.  Perhaps the routine needs to be modified so that it cam be maintained more easily.  The purpose of a routine for quickly turning in papers is to increase efficiency, and thereby gain more instructional time.  Less time collecting papers equals more time teaching.  If the routine is no longer a time-saver, it needs to be re-taught and the best time to start is right now.  The same goes for any expectations around behavior, respect, quality of work, or using the bathroom.

Starting right away is the best option. You simply go the shortest amount of time with the ineffective routine.  Beyond this, however, beginning to correct issues immediately serves as strong, lifelong, modeling for students.  It is powerful for young people to see an adult take immediate action.  They see that the teacher has high expectations, and the willingness to course-correct.  Having the vulnerability to admit a mistake, and take the actions necessary to fix that mistake is a powerful show of awareness, confidence, and strength.  All virtues we would hope to instill and develop in our students.

It comes down to the central concept of teaching: if you want something done right, you need to teach the right way to do it.  If your students are not performing how you want them to, you need to keep teaching them until they get it right. Regardless of the topic, it takes accountability, persistence, and a willingness to go back and fix issues.  PIck your area for change and start right now.

She leans back in her seat with a look smug self-satisfaction.  Here it comes.  You can hear the question before her hand is all the way up.  In the back row of the class she slowly raises her hand high.  Your nerves start crying out like an over tightened violin string.   There’s no missing that hand.  The class sees your eyes follow her hand and they track your gaze to the back of the room.  They know it’s coming too.  The question.  The big question.  The question they all want an answer to, but only she is brazen enough to ask.

“So… why are we learning this stuff anyway? … What’s the point?  Does this even matter?”

[You Freeze]

OK hotshot new teacher: Pop quiz. Do you:

  1. Tell the kid that they’ll need it for the test.
  2. Tell the kid it will help them in college.
  3. Tell them some words about respecting the classroom environment and asking appropriate questions.
  4. Tell them it is part of the curriculum.

You’ve got one shot to get this right.  Succeed and you’ll have established your authority in the eyes of your students and they’ll begin to trust that you know what you’re doing.  Fail this test and you’ll be battling for credibility all year.

Correct answer?  E: None of the above.

“Ok,” you ask. “You’re so smart: how do I handle that question?”  Simply put: You handle that question by answering it directly.  The kicker is, that you need a better answer than all the answers above.

None of the answers above will satisfy this student.  She wants a real answer.  The first two may work for a lot of students.  These students will be motivated by grades and college entrance.  That’s not necessary a bad thing, but these goals breed strategic compliance instead of engagement.  These are the students who do all the work because of the grade, or because those grades will allow them to get into a good college, and only because of these rewards.  These are relying on extrinsic motivation.  Either of these rewards last only as long as you keep measuring them against that target, but they lose impact as soon as the test is over, or once a student has finished the class.  Grades alone do not necessarily create students who strive to learn.  The student asking the questions need more than just the next test to keep her interest.

Answer C is also problematic because it discredits the students’ desire for meaning.  It tells them that to ask “Why” is disrespectful and inappropriate.  Students are conscripts in public education.  In order to get students on board with the curriculum we need to explain its benefit transparently and concretely.  We also need to make that explanation immediately relevant.  We need to explain why this is so important to them that we force their participation for twelve consecutive years.

Answer D is the weakest of the four.  By giving this answer you’ve immediately abdicated your responsibility for the content of your classroom.  With this response someone else is calling the shots, but they don’t know your students, and you’ve just established yourself as someone who needs to be told what to do as opposed to someone who makes decisions based on professional judgment.  The follow up question to this answer is a gigantic “so what?”  The problem is that the vast majority of students will only ask that follow up silently and it will consequently go unanswered.  This answer does not resolve the initial concern and further reduces your credibility.  Not helpful.

Instead of the four options above, you need an authentic and relevant answer.  You need to be able to tell students how the work they are doing in that moment will be a benefit to them in their lives both inside and outside of school.  The students are trying to make the connection between their schooling and their personal lives; however they often lack the necessary context to make that connection on their own.  You as a teacher can provide that context. This student is craving relevancy and meaning from school and learning to write is just as important as learning why writing matters.

The Schlechty Center defines engagement as learning in which “the student sees the activity as personally meaningful,” and “the student finds the task sufficiently challenging that she believes she will accomplish something of worth by doing it.”  This is essential because engagement is the catalyst for learning.  It takes thorough mental activity in order to learn new material and student who is merely compliant is not activating the necessary higher brain function. (Medina, 2009)

“What’s the point?” should not be a teacher’s most dreaded question.  Quite the opposite.  This should be the most highly desired question because it indicates that the student needs meaning, and wants meaning for the work they are doing.  This question holds you accountable for the relevancy of your instruction the same way a teacher wants to hold students accountable for achieving intended learning outcomes.  If the students are not aware of the purpose for a lesson it is incumbent on the teacher to explicitly provide that meaning.  After all, the teacher is the one who designed the lesson and understands where everything is coming from.

Lastly if you are thinking to yourself that, as a teacher, you may be unable to adequately answer the question of “why does this lesson matter to my students beyond school?” You may want to reexamine what you are teaching.  If there is no point to teaching it, you probably shouldn’t.

I just had an experience that I’d forgotten I could have.  I thought I was above this kind of thing.  My ego just barreled through and knocked me out cold.  Then it did a little dance over my body.

Since reading Mindset I’ve been operating under the basic premises therein that a growth mindset allows you to improve while a fixed mindset acts as a roadblock to your improvement.  I’ve been all about it, telling everyone to read the book, having my students read sections.  I’m Carol Dweck’s biggest cheerleader.  Her premise is not difficult to grasp, but as I’m discovering, it can be a difficult concept to adopt as part of your life on a daily basis.

As part of developing my own growth mindset I signed up for a math class through EdX.  I wanted to model lifelong learning for my students, and it’s a subject I could use a refresher on.  The class is a statistics course through UC Berkeley.  The basic format is do some reading, watch a lecture, some practice problems, and then do a problem set.  It just started and I was feeling  (over)confident that this would be a simple brush-up and a good way to remind myself of the stats classes I took in high school and as an undergrad.  The first problem set and lecture proved to be pretty straightforward, introducing types of variables, basics about percentiles, and how to arrange data so that it makes some sense.  I skimmed the reading, skipped parts of the video lecture, and did fine on the first problem set.  Ding!  Round one goes to the fixed mindset approach.

With my hubris firmly in place I figured why not get a jump on the next assignment, check the sample problems, and jump straight into the problem set.  The second problem set checked my ego.  Hard.  Did I go back to the reading and lecture before moving through the rest of the problem set?  Nope.  I just told myself “that was the first question, you’ve got this, just keep going.  You’ll be fine.”

By the time I got 70% of the way through the problem set (with limited success, thank you instant online feedback) it hit me: “I’m rationalizing my lack of understanding.”  I’m telling myself this class doesn’t matter.  Telling myself there’s no grade attached.  I’m not a statistician.  I don’t really need this.  I can just stop if I don’t like it.  I’ll go do something I care about like reading a book.  All of my emotional baggage related to math classes came back at me like a sucker punch to the throat.  My heart rate and breathing were elevated and I had to stand up and walk away from the computer in order to calm down.  Round two:  technical knockout due to forfeit.

Damn.  Talk about a fixed mindset in action.  Even ten minutes after putting the problem set on hold I was telling myself it was because I didn’t care; that’s why I didn’t do well, not that I didn’t know the math.  I was actively preserving my ego.

I could stop.  It would be easy to stop.  Easy to go back to fighting the fights that are inside my comfort zone.  There is no grade here and I’ve made no financial commitment.  This statistics course it not attached to a degree.  If I give up though I give up on myself.

This experience puts me back on the same footing as my students.  They experience this regularly with their classes and it serves as a healthy reminder to me to be understanding of their reluctance, frustration, and the difficulties they encounter.  I’ve read books like Outliers and Mindset.  I’ve adopted the theory and I still get blindsided by my ego and the ease of a fixed mindset.  My students haven’t read these pieces and so modeling and teaching a growth mindset is even more important.  I need to be able to provide support and context when they are unable to do it for themselves.

Well:  Time for a rematch.  I’m ready to get back in the ring and get the KO on my Greatest Obstacle.  I need to (and will) go back to the reading and the lecture.  I will finish that second problem set, and for the third problem set I’ll come from a place of humility and do the process from the proper state of mind.  The ability to go back and fix problems is what sets the growth mindset apart from the fixed mindset, the willingness to pick yourself back up and try again.  Watch out ego:  I’m coming to get you.

Finals are stressful for all involved.  Students are studying as if their lives depend on it.  Many of them are also scrambling to turn in any remaining late work in a hopeful attempt to salvage their grade for the semester.  Teachers are either furiously grading work, writing their final exams, or they are (like I often find myself) in a bizarre holding pattern where their finals are written, but they can do nothing to get a jump on the massive pile of grading that finals inevitably bring.  The sense of comfort and relaxation we all felt during winter break quickly evaporated to be burned as fuel for the necessary sprint to the end of the semester.

My students had a significant final exam.  They wrote an essay in addition to a multiple choice exam that covers everything we’ve studied to date.  We have a two-hour block reserved for final exams and I intend to use the time to give a proper final exam.  I see it as a pedagogical responsibility to help my students learn how to study for an exam of such magnitude.  In a high school environment their grades are (usually) calculated on a combination of homework, in-class participation, essays and tests.  As such, for most students, the final exam has a significant impact on their final grade, but is not the most important factor.  This is a relatively (relative to their likely college experience) low-stakes way to teach the process of studying for a final exam without simply throwing them out of the nest with the hope that they’ll learn to fly.

And I do teach it – how to study.  We spent the last two weeks prior to the exam covering essay writing and methods to review for an exam.  This is paramount.  As educators, we suffer from a mistaken idea that if we simply tell students to study, they will, and they will study well.  Like absolutely everything, if we expect students to do a good job at something, we have to teach them how to do a good job.  Studying for my exam requires something different than studying for a math exam, or a regular unit exam.  If I want students to be able to study well, I need to make it clear how to go about it.  As such, I’ve made the choice of emphasizing skill-based lessons in my classroom as the cost of spending less time on historical content.  I’ve traded content for skills – a trade that teachers all over (and particularly in AP classes) are loath to make.  I am extremely confident that this is the right choice.  Historical content can easily be found through a quick search or by flipping through a book.  The skills of how to study or how to write, are easily transferable to future situations.

As is my wont, I pushed my students outside their comfort zones in the process, giving them an authentic need to apply the skills we’ve practiced.  They’re used to supports like review packets and being told precisely what to study for a given exam.  I chose instead to partially remove some supports by having them create their own study guide.  They have guides to the most important information from each chapter we’ve studied to date, and so it should be manageable to compile that into a master list of what is on the final.

It is a difficult balance to support student success while also helping them be independently successful.  I’ve said before that the best judgment of my success is whether my students can apply their learning from my classes once they no longer have me as a teacher.  Teaching academic independence is much harder than teaching how the Ottomans sacked Constantinople in 1453, but it is significantly more useful once they leave my class.

Teaching is not an easy job.  No teacher I’ve met would refute this, regardless of their situation.  Tony Danza lasted one school year, with significant trouble, and he only had one class and a bigger paycheck than most teachers.  First year teachers constantly report being overwhelmed, underprepared, and roughly a third of all teachers leave the profession within three years.

“But you get all that time off!”  Yes.  I do get substantial breaks for the holidays and summers, but these breaks are unpaid time off.  On top of that a very significant number of teachers spend time on these unpaid breaks planning their next lessons or catching up on grading.  Add to that the fact the not a single teacher I know works only their contracted time (40hours a week) and you have teachers doing considerably more work than they are paid for.  Personally I work in the neighborhood of 65 hours a week and never fewer than 50. (50 would assume I do zero work at home, which simply does not happen.)

Growing class size, cuts in special education budgets, reduced English Language Learning (ELL) support, and the ever rising stakes of standardized testing all serve to exacerbate the already difficult job.  When I assign an essay in my AP World History class I can expect to grade 133 of them.  At 6 minutes per essay (a reasonable estimate) I can expect over 13 hours of grading for this one assignment.  If I want to get essays returned in anything resembling a prompt timeframe I can expect to grade in the evening and on weekends.

OK.  So teaching is tough.  It’s in the newspaper all the time.  The point has been made.  So what?

The difficulty of teaching is not sufficient reason for teachers to abdicate their responsibility to their students.  The students did not create the difficult situation.  The students did not vote down taxes that help provide funding for reduced class size and arts education.  The students are the ones for whom the stakes are greatest.  They get a very limited window for their educational opportunity and it is the responsibility of teachers to make sure their pedagogy is not another barrier placed in a student’s path.

I’ve worked with a wide variety of teachers across four schools.  I’ve taught 6th grade, 12th grade, and most levels in between.  Across the board I’ve seen great teachers doing their absolute best for students, and I’ve seen teachers who could be great making excuses for why they’re not great.  The excuses range from “I don’t offer re-writes or revisions on essays because it becomes too much work,” to “there’s no way we can do a research paper, think of how long it would take to grade,” and “the English department teaches writing.”

I’ve heard variations of these multiple times from multiple sources.  My personal favorite is: “Some days you just need a frozen-waffles lesson.”  I get it.  Life gets in the way of perfection, and our lives should not be completely dominated by our jobs.  At the same time though we need to maintain high standards and integrity.  There is substantial data that when properly motivated, students will rise to meet high standards, and when given the opportunity they will also sink to our low standards.  When we bring out the “frozen-waffles lesson” the students realize and they react accordingly.

If (as per part one of this series) we’re going to expect our students to take responsibility for their education, teachers have to take responsibility for making school worth our students’ time.  I don’t believe that every day should be “fun” but every day in class should definitely be worthwhile.

Teachers should always make sure that students understand why they’re doing a particular assignment or task.  It is of the utmost importance that students understand why their work has value beyond their grade.  (Fred Newmann is great on this subject.)  If we can consistently contextualize assignments in terms of their value beyond school we will go a long way to improving instruction, and it’s frankly not that hard.  Just start every lesson imaging a student asking you “so why do I have to learn this?”  If you cannot answer that question with something better than “it will be on the test,” you need to rethink your lesson.  I assure you that your students have other things they think are more important.

As a teacher it is your responsibility to show students the value of the work you do.  Telling is not enough.  You must show.  Students bear great responsibility for their education.  I’ve never seen a student fail as long as they put in their best effort; however students are not the only ones who bear responsibility for their education.  Teachers are equally responsible for creating a safe and effective learning environment while simultaneously delivering lessons that are of the highest quality.

Every time a student struggles to meet the high standards in my class I feel a bit like a jerk, but every time a notoriously difficult student tells me they can’t skip my class because it’s meaningful to them, I know I’m doing something right.

We ask our students to work hard all the time.  We ask them to balance seven classes, sports, music, and being a well-adjusted human being.  We tell them that they should work hard in school so they can work hard in life.  It’s time for teachers to take some of our own medicine and live what we teach, and it’s time for someone to stand up and support this effort.

I have two classes of seniors this year.  1st period and 7th period.  Today I had two very different discussions with them regarding motivation, accountability, and the importance of being prompt.

First period has the classic issues of high school.  Class starts at 7:30 and by 7:28 I have between two and four students in class.  Many more pile in during the last two minutes and by the time the bell rings at 7:30 I have roughly half the class.  The remainder trickle in during the first thirtyminutes of the class.  To remedy this I will be implementing daily graded assignments that will be completed in the first 5-10 minutes of class.  This is a lot of work on my end and is definitely a top-down way of handling the attendence issues in the class.  For students who are regularly prompt they’ll have little trouble keeping up and will essentially be getting credit for showing up to class on time.  I have no problem with this remedy though it is inelegant and I would prefer a more bottom-up option.

During seventh period I had a similar discussion.  I discussed my issues with my first period class and applauded them for generally being on time and doing the work of the class.  I was caught off guard when students though my solution for first period was unfair. 

Their claim was that first period now has many more chances to earn credit in the class and as such it would be easier to earn a high grade.  By giving one period credit for making it to class and participating, but not the other one I was not being equitable.  I allowed their reasoning and we discussed options.  After brief discussion we decided that the best solution was to implement a regular participation grade for doing the work of the class.  The class was on board with this and so there will now be a weekly participation grade in seventh period to mirror the regular “warm up” assignments in first period.

My hope is that because they were part of the solution seventh period will be more invested in participating in class now.  In theory their ability to impact the grading in the class should help increase their buy-in and work to myadvantage to increase participation beyond it’s current level.  I plan to informally track the participation levels of seventh period and the attendence patterns in first period.  My hypothesis though is that the option that students worked with me to implement in seventh period will have a greater effect than my top-down approach in first period.  I’m now wishing I’d had the presence of mind to bring the topic to the students first before implementing a solution.