Alas, I really want to chronicle this crazy year as we all navigate a new normal.
Weeks 11 and 12 encompass the first two weeks of our second quarter (2nd semester for this group). I began week 11 with a "reset" for all of the students. As we are treating each quarter like a semester, grades started over and I wanted to make a big deal out of that. I made it a point (such a point, we spent an entire class period talking about it!) to reinforce for the students that this was their chance to step it up if they hadn't done as well as they wanted in the first quarter.
Some behaviors haven't changed but I have students who didn't do much at all before who are now passing. This is exciting. It's a step forward. It's progress. As some of them see success, it really becomes contagious.
This week, the students were working in their small groups in a breakout. Before I sent them in, I said something about how if everyone in their group contributed, I'd be the happiest teacher ever. One of the kids says in the chat, "Wait...we just have to do our work and you're happy?" Yes, honey, that's all it takes! It was funny.
The farther we go with SFA, the more I think the students are getting it. I stepped back in this cycle, with permission from our ELA coach, to add in a couple of "feedback days" where each group would be in their breakout working on something independently and then I'd go into each room, one at a time and offer feedback on their last team lesson. So far, it seems to have worked quite well. A few groups have had poor scores because they aren't using the role sheets and spend their time arguing rather than working, but they are chagrined when I pop in and we talk about it.
One thing I've really noticed as of late is that the students are much better (for the most part) with moving on even if someone is not doing their part. For example, students A, B, C and D are in a group together. Students A, C and D are all ready to rock and roll and are working but Student B is playing on their phone, paying attention to other people in their home, etc. Students A, C and D are working WITHOUT Student B. When we come back into the main room, the group's discussion director sends me a private message on GoGuardian or the Zoom chat and says "Dr. Wood, Student B wasn't helping today."
Simple as that. I make a note of it and when I do grades, that student doesn't get credit for the team's work. It has worked brilliantly so far. There are some kids who just aren't stepping it up, but as time goes on, it is fewer and fewer students who aren't pulling their weight. It's quite awesome.
What I find to be the most amazing is how negative some of my colleagues continue to be about this program we are using. I attended a supplementary PD on Friday afternoon with my coach and one other colleague in the ELA department and it was amazing how the other ladies in that PD, from all over the country, rave about this program. One woman told me they have been using it since 1998 (the year after I graduated high school!) and how amazing their progress has been.
It strikes me that the more negative mindset a teacher has, their students will also be more negative. It shows, big time.
I refuse to be that negative nelly. Nope, not happening. It doesn't mean I never complain. There are many frustrating things that have come our way this year. But when I complain, it is with an air of "help me fix this by brainstorming a solution" not just whining because I don't want to find solutions. There is a HUGE difference. And it's seen in my students and their approach to their work. I tell them every day I wish we were in person too. I want to talk to them, not a screen, but to keep us all safe, this is the way it is.
I'd bet they really appreciate that I'm real with them and share that I think this situation also sucks. Now that I'm teaching remotely again (before I was teaching from my classroom), the kids also get a glimpse into my house. On Friday they got to see my dog licking the carpet behind me because he's a weirdo. They are fascinated that I'm actually a person LOL (And yes these are middles!)
We just have to be real. We have to encourage them, empathize, [figuratively] hold their hand and help them adjust. Because this does suck. It sucks a lot. BUT it's not helpful to anyone to sit and whine about what could have been. Embrace the situation we are in and make the most of it.
I am confident my positive attitude is shining through to my students and they are recognizing that we can make this happen together. It won't be easy or pretty but we CAN do it together.