Turning crisis into opportunity

The Feelings:

As I embark on a much needed week of relaxation and personal recharging, for some reason I am plagued by the feelings I have about the small but significant percentage of students who profoundly missed the mark on our recently finished project. I am disappointed on some level in both them and myself. This was a writing unit designed to have multiple ways in for everyone, one of the most accessible studies we will do all year. It feels particularly *not okay* for some students to have skipped steps along the way, tuned out important directions, avoided the revision and editing process, and turned out work that is less than what they are capable of doing.

Identifying the Problem:

I know that I’ve got to put away the stick, stop beating myself up for it. In talking to a friend about it, I realized that part of my frustration is knowing that if I had worked one-on-one with many of these students, the outcome would have been much better. So the problem is that I did not give some students the individual attention they needed in order to make progress.

Cause of the Problem:

What happened? One important fact is that I now work with 105 students instead of 55. And I have only 45 minutes a day with each class. It is not a small difference. So I went about the unit in the same way I always have, and naturally did not reach every student who needed me in individual conferences. I did not realize I’d have to do some things differently in order to serve every student in my new school. In some cases, the individual attention should have also come in the form of a phone call home, advising the family that their student had not been keeping up in class.

Solutions/Next Steps:

All these feelings are here to guide me to make some kind of change. What I have come up with is this:

  • Make a list of the students who were far from meeting my expectations in this project. Share this list with the learning specialist so we can put some additional focus on these students in future projects.
  • Create a tutorial section comprised of these students, and propose the change for the week we return from break. (Tutorial is a period each day where we can work with smaller groups of students who need extra help.)
  • Go over their work with the students and have them reflect on what happened. Explain to them they now have a second chance–like a retake of an exam, only a redo of the project. The semester ends at the end of January. We have a month to redo all the steps of the project using a new topic of their choosing.
  • Speak to their families about what happened and the new tutorial. Keep them updated on their child’s progress.
  • Celebrate their success at the end of the month.

The image at the top of this entry is the Chinese symbol for crisis. It includes two characters: one for danger, and the other for opportunity. Moving beyond my instinct to beat up on myself for the failure of some of my students, I hope that by embracing the information I now have about them as an opportunity to change something, I can bring them out of the danger zone they are currently in with their education.

[image credit: austincc.edu]