Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Eating Lunch With Other Teachers

We have three small staff lounges on our high school campus. I frequent the lounge behind the main office before school and the one closest to my classroom at lunchtime. I enjoy the adult contact and encounter different teachers at the two different lounges and times. Some are teachers I'd never see otherwise and I value that interaction.

Background for this story: our school district is taking the entire next week off for President's Week. We probably start earlier than you do in August and probably get out later than you do in June, but we're taking next week off no matter what.

Anyway, I was discussing at lunch today the fact that I'd polled one of my classes, and they thought it would be better for me to give them their chapter test this Friday (while the information is still fresh in their minds) rather than on the Tuesday we get back, after they've had a over a week to forget some of it. The vote was almost unanimous, so yesterday I agreed to reschedule their test to this coming Friday.

Later it occurred to me that many, if not most, teachers will probably have some kind of quiz or test scheduled for Friday. The kids will be swamped. What could I do? I'd already agreed to the proposal, and it wouldn't seem right to get their input, act on it, and then go back on it--all within a day! So today I proposed, and they gleefully accepted, an offer to make the test a take-home test over the week off.

Perhaps I'm appearing extremely wishy-washy, changing my plans each day. I'm not usually like this, but since the students don't seem to mind and I'm gaining two extra instructional days, I'll forgive myself this once.

While discussing it today, the thought occurred to me that I could give a short quiz on Friday (the "quick quiz" that I had originally planned to give Friday anyway) and could give the test as a take-home test over the week off. And if they don't bring it back on Monday, major points taken off.

One teacher thought that would be a bad idea. She pointed out that several will forget it; even at 16 they're kids, and consequences or not, plenty will still forget about it after a week. And I really don't want to take off major points, but how else could I get them to bring it back that day? She suggested that I make it due Tuesday; everyone could get a subtle reminder on Monday, and then there's no excuse for Tuesday.

Not bad, and I'd still get those two instructional days. I'm a week behind the other Algebra II courses, and if I can reclaim those two days with little impact on achievement, then we're all better off.

Then we came up with bonus points for bringing it back Monday, major points off if not returned by Tuesday. Not a bad suggestion, and again, I wouldn't have to feel guilty for slamming people who don't bring it back on Tuesday. But there's already a bonus problem on the test; why give more extra points for bringing it back on the due date?

More discussion. Consensus view: take off 5% if it's not brought back Monday, 20% if not brought back Tuesday, and 100% after that. Going once, going twice, sold.

Key points here:

1. Why did I even worry about the fact that other teachers will be giving tests/quizzes Friday? Perhaps I'm getting soft in my old age. A moment of weakness.

2. I like this solution. Would I have come up with it on my own? Probably not.

3. Please, don't comment that this is just how cooperative learning is supposed to work. No it's not! I conferred with others who have different experience in this field than I've had. In cooperative learning, they've all had about the same level of education (at least in upper math) and wouldn't be relying on their experience to tell me the equation of the hyperbola that's centered at ....

4. No one was being negative about students. In fact, that's a nice bonus of eating in the lounge that I do--it's almost always a very positive place. None of that stereotypical complaining/gossiping/badmouthing going on that we were warned about back in the credentialing classes.

5. One of our newer teachers joined us today, for probably the first time. Usually she eats lunch in her room. We're entitled by contract to a duty-free lunch, and today she learned the value of taking it. She was so "uplifted" when the end-of-lunch bell rang, I'm sure she'll be back tomorrow.

The end. I didn't say it was a barn-burner! But it was a nice lunch.

Oh, and we're having a potluck in that lounge on Friday.


Ace said...

Hey Mr. Miller, it's richard, Ace is my internet alter-ego. You have the most grammaticly correct blog ever. I can see why that one sight links to you.

Anonymous said...

Alright Mr.Miller....one of my rare "apple shiner" type moments....just wanted to say that I greatly appreciate the thought you(and apparently other teachers) put into finding a solution that works for both you and us students it certainly released some stress from an already overwhelming week!


Anonymous said...

Hey Mister Miller.... its your favorite democrat student in the whole wide world!!!! well, I do appriciate that you are thinking of us the students, and it does make my life a WHOLE lot easyer! Congrats on those 5 regualar reader, that is definatly one of those achievments that I spends my night pondering on how to achieve ;).


Darren said...

Ace: you expected different? You think I can't spell or use grammar/punctuation correctly because I'm a math teacher??? Minus 5!!!

As for you other two: when I say I'm on your side, I really mean it. Part of being on your side means providing you with a standards-based, rigorous course. Another part is remembering to do that without making you hate it--or me.

EdWonk said...

Well, the weekend is here! Sleep late, eat well, and enjoy your vacation while us down here in the "Imperial" Valley toil (Except for Monday) all next week. ;)

Anonymouph said...

A teachers' lounge? A duty-free lunch? Vacation all week? Coworkers who don't gossip and complain? Wow, wow, wow.

Walter E. Wallis said...

When you have a day off, do you get to save your rest period for the next day?

Darren said...

Mz. Smlph and Walter:

Please don't get the impression that I work in a teacher's paradise. Far from it. We're going through contract negotiations right now and our district is in a severe financial hurtbox--read my three posts from Wednesday 1/26 and before (January archives) to see what I'm talking about. Right now it looks like one cost-saving measure, and one that our union appears ready to accept, is to increase our daily student contacts from 165 (33 average per class with a max of 36 in any class) to 180 (36 average per class, no idea what the max would be).

Our district unilaterally furloughed all of us for 3 days this year and took 3 days of pay--when we filed an unfair labor practice claim they relented; we'll get the money back in August and have to make up the (what had been teacher work-) days after school gets out in June. Additionally, they unilaterally raised our medical co-payments, and another unfair labor practice claim caused them to reconsider; we'll get that money back in August as well.

Both of those issues were, of course, blatantly against our contract, a legally-binding document.

So let's not mock the fact that I *choose to associate* with positive teachers or that my school calendar is different than yours. I don't like it when students refer to their achieving peers as "over-achievers" for the same reason!

I have a good administration in my school--doesn't everyone deserve that??? My district administration leaves much to be desired, and I say that not only as an employee but as a taxpayer *and* a parent.

Now, I'm going back to enjoying my time off. I'll not harass you in mid-June when I'm still working and you're relaxing under the sun :-)