Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last two weeks of school

When I was a lad, the last day of school was a day for cleaning the place up. After 12 pm we started cleaning and after cleaning was complete we had a goodbye party last period on the floor with the desks and chairs piled up at the back. Until then, we completed classwork.

Today, this does not happen. During term students drift out of school thinking that taking a week out here and there is ok, that it is their right to have personal tuition to catch up when they return and that teachers must prepare material for them (that will not be done) whilst they are on holidays.

My favourite thing now is to ask students that have been absent (even for a day) if they have found a friend and caught up during form class (form is usually 20 mins of dolittle time each day where students rock up 2 seconds before the bell and get their names ticked off whilst talking through the notices). If they haven't caught up, I direct them to get their notes complete and until they have I help others first that have done the right thing (..after all once students have made an attempt to catch up they probably won't need the help).

Programmes seem to wrap up in week 8 term 4, as reports and all assessment have to be in. Student absenteeism starts to increase by week nine as students get sick of watching videos. Fun days start to appear to keep students busy. By week 10 absenteeism is at an all time high.

Students get roped into tasks to help get things done around the school. The sad fact is that it is usually the reliable kids that have the most to lose. They get taken out of class and valuable learning time is lost not to mention the disruption of reteaching when they return.

Unfortunately all of these things also occur in week 10 of every other term. That means we potentially lose 5 weeks out of 40 for the year to these cool down periods. Couple this to ramp up time, assemblies, exams, excursions, PD days and public holidays we can easily lose another 3 weeks. That means a clear 20% of programme time is lost over the year.

Teachers that run their programmes through to week 10 are put under pressure to stop by students (and teachers) as their class is the only one doing any work and it is not fair.

Last year in year 9, I had my practice of getting kids to work to the end of term questioned and I caved in and stopped the programme on the last day. This year for my year 10 class I was not so kind. Any of my kids that were being roped into alternate activities were found and returned to class. They worked until their last period practising trinomial factorisation... And do you know what.. they seemed to respect that their programme of learning was being protected. I don't get to see them until the last day next week (one period lost to a school assembly, one to a whole of school fun day, one to finishing on a Thursday), effectively making it a nine week term and that too needs looking at.

I can't complain about student knowledge if I'm not willing to do anything about it. This is an area that can be improved especially for my high ability students.

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