When I reflect, I don’t always like what I see…

Don’t try to fix the students, fix ourselves first. The good teacher makes the poor student good and the good student superior. When our students fail, we, as teachers, too, have failed. ~Marva Collins

I have 38 students who are failing my class. Out of 122 students, that is a 31% failure rate. This is for a 6-week time-frame, which is a relatively short amount of time. After a lot of reflection, I know that the reason this has happened is due to my lack of follow through regarding the completion of my students’ assignments, or lack thereof. I don’t know if there is an acceptable excuse for this, so I will just state the facts and what I plan to do to change this.

My students were working on their research papers, which were due at the beginning of November. I tried very hard to get these graded in a timely manner, as per Marzano’s strategy, but I began to feel bogged down for a few reasons. First, I had a rubric that I was using to grade the papers, but I wonder if it was too in-depth. I graded them based on all of the 6+1 Traits for Writing with only 2-3 criteria under each trait. Second, I felt that since my students spent a lot of time writing their papers, I should spend quality time grading them. I began to realize that spending 1 hour on 1 paper was not going to be very effective. Once I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to grade the papers the way that I thought they should be graded, I began to avoid them altogether. I did eventually get them done, but it took me way longer than it should have. This leads me to where I am now.I have a lot of upset parents who are not happy with the grades their students earned on their papers. Then there are the parents who are not happy that I failed to call them to let them know that their student did not turn in their paper at all.

My reflection has revealed the following mistakes and the solutions I plan to employ to ensure I don’t make them again:

1. I realized after I graded the papers that I should have checked off the names of those papers turned in and those that were still missing. I didn’t attempt to gather missing papers until after I entered grades and saw whose papers were still outstanding. This is a simple solution… check off the names BEFORE I start grading.

2. I need to set a time limit for grading each paper. Also, I cannot avoid grading the papers because I have backed myself into a corner. The solution to these problems is to schedule a specific time to grade papers and then set a timer for each paper so I can pace myself.

3. Most importantly and probably my biggest mistake, I need to contact parents to let them know about the status of their student’s grades. My solution is to schedule a time each week to check for failing grades and make those necessary phone calls. When I finally did this after the research paper debacle, the number one complaint was that I should have called them sooner so they could be proactive with their child. I agree. I should have done this sooner. I also need to keep a log of when I do interact with a parent, so when I am called into my principal’s office to account for my actions, I will have some sort of time line of events, if needed.

This is what I have done so far to try to rectify and improve upon this critical error:

1. I have begun a binder/journal with a designated page for each student. I plan to log all parent interactions, student progress, behavioral issues, and important student interactions.

2. I have scheduled blocks of time specifically for grading and parent contacts. I think that I need the added structure of an appointment to help me become more accountable to these important issues.

I’d appreciate any feedback on what you do to keep from letting things get out of control…

– Stephanie



Filed under CADRE and my Experiences, Teacher Reflection

8 responses to “When I reflect, I don’t always like what I see…

  1. Adrienne

    Stephanie –
    I appreciate this post so much. I am a sophomore in college, studying to become an Elementary Ed. teacher. I continue to search for the experiences and opinions of real world teachers, and I really respect your honesty. I find it a mark of a great teacher to embrace what they can change to further the effectiveness in their classroom, and do what they can, not for themselves, for the benefit of their students. It’s easy to see that learning does not stop once one becomes a teacher, and you have embraced that. Thank you!

  2. Thank you Adrienne! I believe that reflection is crucial for teachers to grow. You’ll have to keep me updated on your progress through school! I’d love to hear your ideas 🙂

  3. Ardis

    I’m so glad you’re sharing your teaching experiences – I’m about to graduate with an Education degree and reading your blog has been great in giving me a heads up of what to expect. Thanks, and keep the entries coming! 🙂

  4. April

    I find this post really admirable. I am studying to become a teacher myself, and I really respect the way you recognized your imperfections and devised plans to fix them. I would love to hear how these strategies played out while grading your next term papers.

    A teacher’s learning is never complete, and it is refreshing that there are still educators who are humble enough to admit it!!

    • I hope I am always so humble! It is really hard to take an honest look at who we really are… that deep down person nobody else ever sees… and resolve to always do what we can to improve who we are. If we don’t… we may never grow. I hope you the best on your journey toward becoming a teacher. 🙂

      – Stephanie

  5. Anthony

    Stephanie, it is great to read your blog as you are a first year teacher getting your thought out there to help yourself and others as well. I’m a pre-service teacher and I like how you reflect on what you do. I was just at a four day conference and one thing they talked about was keeping a journal for your students, which I feel is a great idea to keep track of everything. Another thing that was mentioned was to have a contract with your students that say what you want them to have done and if a parent calls and complains then you can go back to that contract and tell them. Something I never really thought about was even calling the students parents that are doing well in your class just to let them know about their child. I can’t wait to read more from you.

    • Thanks Anthony! I really like keeping a binder with my students’ information, parent contacts, and other important events/details that happen for those students. However, I have found that I’m just too digital to keep a traditional binder. I just learned about an online “3-ring binder” at http://www.livebinders.com. I just started using this, but it may be a way to keep the same information (privately) and digitally. I also like the contract idea. I have used this before but with students I struggle with. Thank you for your ideas… one of the most amazing parts of being a teacher is sharing our ideas with each other. 🙂

  6. Katie

    As a soon to be “First Year Teahcer” as well, I really appreciate your insight that teachers must reflect and evaluate their teaching processes everyday. What I was curious about was if you had any advice on a process to actively manage your “reflections.” A journal or something, perhaps, to keep track daily of what you think you need to work on in the classroom?

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