Saturday, November 25, 2006

I really thought my posting of two weeks ago (re: discipline) fulfilled a requirement for class, but I have just today discovered that it (probably) did not. To be honest: I am completely and utterly confused as to the blog assignment details to this point. I really have no idea what I am supposed to write here, so I guess I'll tell a classroom management experience I had, and perhaps that will illuminate a bit of what I've been experiencing over the past few weeks.

I suppose that everyone must envision himself in a possible job before he decides to pursue that career. As such, my mind's eye has always focused on what it would be like to be a teacher. Lying in bed at night, I would dream up the lesson plans, teaching materials, and overall goals I would try to use as a teacher. More than considering them, I would see them run in my head like a movie. They were dreams, not unlike how I would act out sinking the final, curling putt to win the Masters when I was in middle school (and, I must be honest, long after that). Much of what I saw on that imagined film was truly the result of an innocent fantasy; I had no idea. However, a small number have come to fruition.

One of those imaginings that has come to pass is my policy regarding cheating. Due to a number of experiences in high school (the president of our National Honor Society was also the school's most notorious plagiarist), I always promised myself that I would become a fascist when dealing with students I caught cheating. I give out zeros on the assignment, and then send them up to the office, where they are traditionally given at least two days of detention. I like to think that I've done pretty well so far, and I am happy to say that I think there is (comparatively) little cheating in my class.

This policy, however, was tested last week when I sat down to grade the students' "poetry projects." To me, the project was easy, although it did contain a number of steps. I gave the students nearly two weeks to accomplish it, including two full class days during which they could work on the project and pick my brain for assistance. Not surprisingly, the students complained about having such a large assignment and convinced me to count it as 1.5 test grades (as opposed to the one test grade I had originally intended). The goal of the project was to get the students to do independent research on a poem (they had 4 from which to choose) and poet. It was my hope that they would get the opportunity to interpret a poem for themselves (an activity we had done countless times in class) so that they could feel that singular joy that comes from understanding a piece of literature.

Though I was disappointed in the number of pathetically unfinished projects I received, I was delighted to see the number of excellent projects that were turned in to me. I gave out a large number of grades above 90, and a very large number of grades above 85.

(As an aside, any student who thinks their teachers are out to give him a bad grade is out of his mind. Grading my student's essays and tests is like a participator sport for me. I cringe when a student forgets a simple grammatical rule and my blood starts pumping when a student earns a high score on an exam, particularly a student who has traditionally not done well in my class. When grading anything, good or bad, I talk to the paper as if it was a talisman representing the student: "Tameka! You know better than that!"; "Hell yea, Jeremy"; etc. Just a note.)

So, I grade one project by a certain student who probably has a 67 in my class. Not good, not bad. I give her a 75. I get up, slurp a drink of water from the bubbler down the hall, and return to my desk. Pick up another paper. Oh, I just graded this one, didn't I? No- wait. This is a different name. BUT IT'S THE EXACT SAME FREAKING PAPER. THE BLOODY FONT AND PARAGRAPH BREAKS ARE IDENTICAL. I throw it across the room, cursing. Give both students zeros, and resolve to talk to them the next morning.

I arrive home and think it might be a good idea to call the two girls' parents, to let them know their little angels have been coping from each other. The mother of Girl A, a student who has always been kind to me despite her poor grades in my class, is shocked (as was I, when first realizing that it was this student who cheated). To make a long story short, Girl A ends up calling me at home and crying to me on the phone: "Mr. E, I am so sorry... I didn't cheat!" I want to believe her, but can't.

Girl B is more interesting. To be frank: she drives me nuts. She's lazy, conniving, and generally unkind to both her classmates and me. She's also extremely funny (though I am usually laughing at, and not with, her) and always participates in my class. About a month before the cheating incident, she had had a bad week, which resulted in a suspension (though from another teacher, not me). She received a detention from me the same week, as well as a pair of calls home. Since then, she'd been great. Her grade had leaped from a 67 to an 82, she had been much better behaved in class, and she actually seemed to (!) enjoy my class, of not me. I was very proud of her turnaround, and had actually begun to look forward to having her in class.

Then this, the cheating incident. Needless to say, her mother was not surprised. When I talked to Girl B in class the next day, she immediately returned to her old tricks. "OnGawd, Mr. E! You're always after me!" Every excuse and denial in the book was given; I won't extended an already long post by listing them here. The resolution? Both girls were sent to the vice principal and (I believe) given three day's detention. Because the project was so large, I told them I'd give them an opportunity to re-do it. Both girls received entirely new poems (and, of course, different poems) and are to pass it into me this coming Monday.

This all happened on the Thursday and Friday before Thanksgiving. Will Girl B return to her old ways of terrorizing me in class? Will Girl A clam-up and return to the shell she had begun to slowly vacate over the course of the last month? Only time will tell. However, as far as a disciplinary moment, I think all went well because I was prepared to confront the girls and they received the punishment they both deserved and expected. I just hope that such an incident does not change the way they approach my class.

Some random notes while I am here:
1. Mom's pumpkin pie never tasted better than it did on Thursday.
2. There is no greater feeling than that of being on a college campus in New England during autumn. Intellectualism, beauty, crispness, vigor. Makes me want to sport a tweed jacket, light a pipe, and quote Byron.
3. Oasis is a terribly underrated band.
4. John McCain will defeat Mitt Romney for the 2008 Republican Presidential Nomination by a slim margin. I have no idea who the Democratic nominee will be, but I strongly urge everyone reading this to vote for Joe Biden.


Post a Comment

<< Home