Friday, September 28, 2007

Better late than never

One terrible thing about making a mistake during the first week of school is that you can never take it back. At least not during that school year. Sure, you learn from past mistakes, but you just end up replacing those with new ones.

My big mistake this year was when I apparently told students that they can show up for class whenever they feel like it.

This is the way I remember saying it: "My door is unlocked. So if you're running late, don't stand there pounding on my door and making a big production of it. Just come in quietly and get to work."

This is what a good third of my students heard: "Want to stroll in two minutes after the bell? Three? Whatever!"

I also remember saying: "If you do come in late, you don't get a stamp, which then means you don't get those points on the weekly quiz. So, don't ask for the stamp, and I won't hassle you too much about being late every once in a while."

They heard: "This little stamp thing is the least important thing in the world. But if you really want one, just beg enough and you'll get one."

Oh well. Tardiness is a problem at my school anyway. But I quickly found out I was starting lessons with only half the desks filled. That meant 18 kids were still somewhere out there in the Black Hole that is anything outside my classroom. Yes, have I mentioned that my average class size this year is 34? That it's 39 in one class? At some point in the next month these classes will be leveled, I'm told, which will cause yet more disruption to the learning that's supposedly going on.

About a week ago, I had enough of the tardies. I had enough of saying stupid things like "you're not late for today, you're early for tomorrow." So I put up a notebook near the door and instituted a new sign-in procedure. If you're late, fine, but write your name and state your reason for the tardy. If I see your name three times in one week, I'll write you up. That was the threat. I haven't followed through on the threat yet, but today I decided to read through the reasons. And, here's what I love about teaching in the city: Most kids don't try to BS you. You tell them you want the truth, and they give it to you, even if you can't handle the truth. Which leads to a new list:

My Favorite Reasons Why Students Are Late to My Class
  • because I was walking slow
  • I have/had a headache
  • don't know walking around
  • don't know walking slow
  • bathroom emergency
  • separating a fight
  • just came out lunch went to locker
  • principal was talking to me
  • only 30 sec. after bell
  • ????
  • I was late because my art teacher
  • hard time opening my new lock
  • walking slow -- leg hurts
  • being on time is for squares!
  • PeePee!
  • just got here
  • punctuality is overrated
  • I'm just no good
A couple of days ago, I was taking care of something during my lunch period. "Taking care of something" usually takes a lot longer than I'd like, which is why I so rarely leave my classroom. So, the bell rang, I fought my way through the masses, but showed up to seventh period just after the tardy bell. Every single student, in an almost unanimous voice, demanded that I sign in and declare my reason.

"Fine," I said, writing my name in the notebook. For the reason, I wrote: "Writing up tardy students."


subhuman said...

Awesome... this list is classic. If I were a teacher, I'd make my students list answers to questions like this ALL THE TIME.

Suggested list topics, should your class need to spend more time not mastering state mandates for education:

-Why did you decide to show up for class today?
-Where do you think you're going?
-Why did you choose to wear that outfit?
-Why aren't you getting better grades?

Could be elucidating.

appopt said...

Well, it could certainly be good fodder for future posts.

Other possible topics:
* What inspires you?
* What did you do last weekend?
* Name three people, living or dead, that you'd like to invite for dinner?
* Where would that dinner take place (other than Old Country Buffet)?
* When's the last time you used a knife and fork while eating?
* What local, national, or international problem most concerns you? (Not including the dress code here at school.)
* What else is troubling you?
* Why are you so angry?
* I understand that you don't have all the answers, but if you did, what would they be?

Br. Nassir said...

My two favorites:
being on time is for squares!
I'm just no good

Ms.G said...

oh my god, I laughed out loud at almost every one, just because the ink was used to pen them...

I'm digging your blog Mr P...