Snow Days and Classroom Management

Posted: December 22, 2013 in Learning, Mental Reboot, Teaching
Tags: ,

We had a snow day on Friday (actually a two hour delay, but since I volunteer for first period, it was a snow day for me).snowy-seattle

That leaves me with two (and a half) conflicting thoughts.  One is “Yippee, Snow Day!  No need to crawl out of bed at 6 in the morning to make it to class.”  And the second is, “Oh crap, my classroom management screw-up from the Thursday is going to have even more impact than I expected at the time.”

And then the other half of the first thought was –  “Dang, even the good part isn’t that good because I traded days with one of the other volunteers so even though I was originally scheduled for Friday, I didn’t need to be there anyway.  So good for him but bummer for me.  Not really a snow day at all, after all.”

Which brings me back to Thursday.  Since last week was the final week before the holidays, I had talked through the schedule with my partners and our in service (real) teacher and we decided to finish up the current unit on Thursday.  This would give us the month of January to attack a final project without distractions.  And we were hopeful that if we could keep the kids on task they would mostly be done with the current unit by Thursday and could hand in their work.  Why Thursday?  Well, because Friday is the day before the holidays and anything can happen the day before a holiday.  We worked this out ahead of time in more detail that usual in part because the in service teacher who generally does a great job of backing up us volunteers was taking Thursday and Friday off.

So Thursday morning I am as clear as I can possibly be to the class that they need to turn in their assignments at the end of class, whether or not they feel like they’re finished.  Then we spent the class on lab time (definitely my favorite part).  And a few minutes before class ends I stop the kids and remind them to turn in their assignment before they leave.  There is a question as to whether they should turn it in if they’re not done.  To which I reply – please turn it in no matter what.  You can resubmit later if you want but I want something in the submission folder before you leave.

Then I made the massive, unforgivable mistake.  I left it at that.

After the kids left, I went to the submissions folder and found that a full 25% of the class had failed to submit anything.  What the heck?  And on further reflection I realized that when the in service teacher made the same request, she would project the submission folder on the screen and verify that each student in the room had put something there before she let them leave.  Why didn’t I think about this before the kids left?  I think I have a fundamental resistance to believing that high school age students, even at a somewhat alternative school, would just refuse to do something that simple when asked directly.  They had time.  There weren’t any questions, like “I can’t find submission folder.”  They had done this kind of submission many times previously in the semester.  Had we trained them to be so dependent on us to project the results that they couldn’t do it without help?  Or are kids that age fundamentally just that ornery?

In any case, I was happy to recognize that we had built in a buffer and with any luck the kids that hadn’t submitted anything on Thursday could do so on Friday.  But of course we had a snow day on Friday.   Is it part of being an adult that something as clearly fun as a snow day has to be complicated?  Can I please not be an adult the next time we have a snow day?  How do I do that?  Please?

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