Wednesday, August 29, 2012

3 ideas for this school year and an invitation to join me

Many schools have already started.  The school I serve opens classes just after Labor Day.  Inevitably, ideas I had over the summer are moving from theoretical to practical.  In a very Darwinian struggle, the better ideas are living to see another day while the weaker ones are naturally finding their place lower on my priority list.

However, here are three things that I am doing this year that  may be of use to you.  I am interested in finding others who will join me with these ideas and, possibly, report back here on The Art of Education about how these ideas are working out.

#1 - Praise Notes

A number of years ago, I received a sample packet of praise notes.  Basically, these are simple carbon paper notes to give at will to thank someone or recognize their efforts.  I used a couple of them, but after a couple of job changes and moves, I lost track of the notes.  As fate would have it, I was cleaning out my office this summer and found the notes stashed away in the back of a drawer.

My idea is simple.  Use one praise note each day.

In order to help create this habit, I have decided to write my note at the end of the day.  In other words, my cue is the end of my day (after packing up my laptop). I will not allow myself to leave until the note is written.  My reward for writing the note is going home (not because I don't like school, I love seeing my children more).  One other adjustment I made for this idea was to leave the pack of notes out on my desk next to my phone.  If I put them away in the drawer, I may forget.  Leaving them out forces me to remember.

#2 - No "U" policy for my advisees

Every student in the division I lead (6th - 8th grade) is assigned a faculty advisor.  These groups of no more than ten students (same grade, same sex) meet ever morning for 20-25 minutes.  As a division, we also keep a record of student effort in every class with effort reports.  Effort reports are compiled every two weeks by every teacher.  Teachers give students either a "S" (satisfactory) or "U" (unsatisfactory).

It is virtually impossible for a student to "slip through the cracks."

Once complied, effort reports are sent to the faculty advisors.  Advisors use these reports to engage with advisees about their work and to help them get back on track as necessary.

This year, I am instituting a zero "U" policy in my advisory group (7th grade boys).  Modeled after the zero injury policy at ALCOA (you can read about it in Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business), if/when one of my advisees gets a "U" in effort, I will have a conversation with that student and the teacher who gave the "U" to find out exactly how that happened AND have a plan to help the student get back to the "S" range for the next report.  The conversations and plan will be finished before the end of the next school day.

#3 - Double action self-evaluation for my class

After taking a year off from a classroom assignment, I am jumping back in.  This year, instead of 7th grade history, I am leading a section of 10th grade history.  I used to teach 10th grade, so this is not a totally foreign concept to me, but I do realize that 10th graders and 7th graders are quite different.  And I want to use that difference to our (me and the class) collective advantage.

One way I plan to do that is to use a "double action" self-evaluation.  Here's how it works.

First, I will designate certain days as Class DASE (pronounced like DAYS) which stands for...Double Action Self-Evaluation.

Second, on those "dase" students will start class with a simple form that asks them to rate themselves on they their PREDICTED performance in class will be that day on a 10 point scale (10 being excellent, 0 being non-existent).  Each number (score) will have a brief description of what that number means (level of engagement, quality of responses, etc.) to help students.  Once completed, students will place the forms in a box (or some other collection device).

Third, at the end of that SAME class, students will fill out a second DASE form to rate themselves about how they perceive their ACTUAL performance.  Once completed, they will, again, place their forms in the collection.

Fourth, I will read through the forms and compare the two from each student.  As I do so, I will take notes about any discrepancies or disagreements I have with the student's evaluation and set up a conversation to talk about those issues.

Finally, I will average the two self-evaluations and give each student a class participation grade for the day based solely on THEIR evaluation.

If you like these ideas, pass them along to others.  If you want to join me in trying them out, feel free.  If you have tried one (or more) of these before, how did it work?  Are you still doing it?  If not, why?

 Feedback is always welcomed.



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