Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's the real issue?

Yesterday was a day like any other day.  I went to school fully expecting some of my students would not have watched their video from the weekend.  As always, my students came into class, and got their WSQ out on their desk.  It amazes me, still, how many students look at me with wide eyed terror

There was a video last night?  

Yes.  It has been 2 days since our last video (longer than normal, but the last learning goal was particularly difficult).  We also wrote it in our planner.

We did?


So the same 6 students of my 30 spent the beginning of their day calling home.  We have a little sticky note next to the phone with a script of what they need to say.

"Hi Mom/Dad, I'm calling because I didn't do my homework last night.  I realize that completing my homework is essential to my success.  Please help me remember to do my homework tonight.  I'm sorry for interrupting your day with my bad choice."

This is actually a pretty normal start to the day.  Then I went to the other class to check on their WSQ's.  This is when I lost it.  6...yes, that's right, 6 total students did their work over the weekend.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

After taking some deep breaths and finding my happy place, I realized that there were 3 absent that day, and 5 who had been absent the day before, bringing our grand total up to 14 completed assignments.  That means a whopping 50% of the other 5th grade class did their work.

I don't get it.

I consider myself a fairly empathetic person.  It is easy for me to relate to my students and their situations, but this I just don't get.  How a student can just not do their work...ever.  It got me to thinking about what the real issue is.

Do we have accessibility issues in my school?  For sure.  Do we work around them? Yes!  I burn DVD's for anyone who doesn't have a computer.  This should be a non-issue.

Do my students come from unstable homes with little parental guidance once they get home.  YES!  What do I do for those students?  I've talked to them about setting up a schedule for when they get home.  We have after school tutoring that I've recommended.  I'm here before school and they know they can come in and work.  The labs are always open during lunch and 2nd recess.  And the icing on the cake...if the students actually used their math time effectively they would never have homework!  Let me repeat, if the students actually used their math time effectively they would never have homework!  The thing is, the math is not too difficult.  Every single student in my class can do this math if they tried.  But they don't.  They spend more time and energy avoiding their work than it would take them to actually complete it.

So what is the deal?  Honestly, this is one of those posts where I don't have the answers, and I'm hoping that you do.

I know that motivation is a factor, but I am having a really hard time motivating some of these kids.  They'd rather go home and play video games than do their work.  They don't see the relevance, even though I make a huge effort to help them see why math is important.

I know that organization is a factor.  I have many students who watch the videos multiple times because they lose their work.  They get frustrated, I get frustrated, but at the same time, they need to realize that they are being held accountable for the same work as everyone.

What more can I/should I do?  I do truly believe that the students need to start taking some responsibility here.  But what about when they don't?  Do they just fail?  It goes against my core beliefs to let a kid fail because they won't put in the effort.  But the amount of time and energy I put in to getting them caught up is exhausting.  And is it even fair to them.  Maybe it's better to let them fail early so they will succeed later.

This is why good teachers get burnt out.

Again, I don't have the answers...Do you?


  1. I feel your pain and know exactly your frustrations. I would love to hear any advice you get. I just started the flipped classroom today, so we shall see how many did their homework tomorrow :)

  2. Thanks for sharing the experience. Current, problem with the Flipped Classroom using video is that video/book is passive form of learning.

    We are building to make it an active learning process thru flash cards attached to the lesson. We never thought about students not having access to internet/computers in big quantities.

  3. I have been flipping my HS math class for two years. I have found a few ways to help with the passive video watching and accountability for the assignment. While nothing is perfect and if accessability is the issue then this wont help. I have created video lesson notesheets for the students. The take notes while watching the video lesson and then they next day, pair up with another student to formulate anyu questions left unanswered. I can quicky see who has not done thier work and for many it is embarassing enough for others to see that they did not do their assignment and can not contribute to the partnership. Another thing I added this semester was a quiz after the video lesson. I make my quizzes in an LMS called, which is free. You can also make these using Google forms. These are short questions that i use to assess the students formatively before they get to class. I know who understand, who didn't watch and who needs my help.

    Lastly, what about making those that did not watch the video sit out of the "fun" part of the next day. They can go to a classroom or media center desktop computer and watch the video and can not join in until they've completed the work.

  4. I, too, just flipped my classroom. I have 3 or 4 students in each of my two classes that cannot be bothered to watch the video at home prior to coming to class. While I am not happy with that figure, it is less than the number of students who didn't do any of their math assignment and turn it in prior to the flip.

    I started asking a question at the end of the video that needs to be answered prior to class so I know who watched the video and who didn't.

    While still working out the bugs, I'd much rather have the flipped classroom. I am already getting positive comments from parents and students.