Saturday, March 19, 2016

Extending the Writing Deadline

In class, we are working on a Civil Rights research essay.  Learners have been placed into groups of three to four and are tasked with exploring a specific aspect of the Civil Rights movement through research, writing, art, and an explanation of the art.  We began the project three weeks ago and have been learning about the major events and ideas of the movement. 

For the writing, the learners have worked through their topic, research question, thesis, quality sources, and have been working through their outlines. Many of the learners have not begun writing because they have not been researching well enough to have much to say, yet. 

Writing and researching is different for everyone.  Some research quickly and write slowly, some research slowly and write quickly, and others are somewhere in-between.  I do not want to rush learners too much because I do not want them to simply check boxes to get the work done.  However, the due date on the polished draft for the essay is a week away and many have not started writing.

Here is my problem. Should I push the due date out until the next week, giving the learners about ten days instead of five?  If I do this, it gives the learners more time to write, revise, and consult with me.  The learning happens in the trenches of writing the paper and revising for clarity, purpose, voice, and strength of argument.  I am hesitant to allow more time because I do not want the learners who are prone to procrastination to have more time to procrastinate and waste the extra time.

I am going to allow for three more days on the polished draft, but I am going to be more diligent to check in with the majority of learners and their progress every day.  I will reflect on this process as I go and let you in on my thoughts.  See ya Monday.

Photo Attribution

Monday, March 14, 2016

"I did my best."

I hear the phrase, "I did my best," often during the day.  What does that mean?  What does it really mean for one to do their best, and if a person really does their best, why do they feel the need to exclaim it like the bookend of a performance that they know was sub-par?

I complain to myself, my wife, and other facilitators that an internal drive and sense of urgency seems to be lacking from many learners.  Where is the desire to exceed expectation and to do a quality job on any and every project?  My wife and I come from families where we (and our siblings) did well in school and did not give up for anything.  I don't remember my mother or father ever having to give us a pep talk or cheer us to the completion of a task.  Completion was a given and extra effort was expected.  We did not work just for the satisfaction of exceeding expectations, but because we would not be internally satisfied without exceeding expectations.

When a person says, "I did my best," what they are really saying is, "I want you to think that I tried when, in reality, it was not important enough for me to try any harder than I did."  In an age of patting everyone on the back for participating, we are raising a generation that "did their best."

It's a lie.  Doing one's best is not about going through the motions and checking a box.  As a former athlete, I used to say and hear phrases like:

"Leave it all on the field,"
"Go balls to the walls,"
"You can rest when you're dead,"
"Get it done. No excuses," and
"Pain is just weakness leaving the body."

While I do not condone child abuse by pushing anyone beyond their physical and mental threshold, I believe that we are setting the bar altogether too low.  We accept crap as long as it is wrapped in the pretty paper of "I did my best." No! You didn't do your best.  You cut corners and you took the path of least resistance.  I am all for working smarter and not harder, but refusing to stretch yourself beyond your own pre-set limitations is unacceptable.

Not every learner, child, or young adult in this generation are lumped into this pit of self-deception. Neither is every adult an internally motivated person.  I am simply noticing that many in the current generation fail to perform at even half of their potential, and the adults are letting them use childish and selfish reasons to justify their laziness and self-deception.

What can be done, you ask? We need to stop accepting their pitiful excuses, including "I did my best," and "That's all I know how to do."

Help me hold the youth of this generation to a higher and nobler standard.  Help me call out the lies and self-deception that they tout when the task is too difficult to be Googled or made into a video game.

It is not uncommon for me to believe that I was born in the wrong generation.  I see other time periods and think that their work ethic and drive are more in tune to mine.  However, when I honestly evaluate the situation, many in this generation have a drive and a work ethic with which I feel more comfortable. We need to teach the youth to appreciate and value integrity and hard work even when the task seems insurmountable.

Photo Attribution:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Evaluating As-You-Go Essays

Thoughts about evaluating as-you-go essays:

  • ·      Some learners took advantage of my availability during class and came to me with their writings regularly.  Those learners thrived and ended up writing essays, scripts, and columns of which any high school learner would be proud.

  • ·      Some learners took too much advantage of my availability during class and came to me with their writings after every sentence.  That may be a stretch, but it sure felt like it.  These learners wanted me to hold their hands, but I had to limit their time with me so that they could write in their own voice.  Giving into the constant check-ins would have made me a co-author, not a facilitator of learning and writing.

  • ·      A few learners always had an excuse about why they did not have much writing done.  These learners were looking for every excuse not to have me read their writing.  They were afraid that I would evaluate and grade their writings poorly.  I guess they would rather stall, stall, stall, until the final paper is due.  Therefore, they could rip off the Band-Aid with one poor grade instead of hearing it multiple times.  They never understood that I was trying to help them improve their writing, not give them a grade each time we met.

  • ·      A few other learners stalled because they never really cared to write or do the work.  Every class has these learners.  By asking and checking in (even though they didn’t have much writing) I was able to learn a little more about the reasons for the lack of motivation.

At the end of the assignment, every learner turned in their assignments. No learner was surprised with their grade and the final product was a breeze to evaluate.

I plan on using this method again and have already started with the next project.  Learners are writing a group research essay on a specific argument involving the Civil Rights Movement.

Picture Attribution