Thursday, November 29, 2012

Feeling like a loser....

Why oh why do my kids bomb the Constitution test every year?

I give them a study guide. The study guide even tells them the exact essay question on the test.

My lessons teach what's on the study guide. Our notes explain the text.

The kids are involved in the Convention--they "become" a member of one of the original states and see how the compromises would affect their state.

The homework reinforces what was in the lesson that will appear on the test. They have a project wherein they actually draw the powers and checks of each branch.

I relate the past with their present with school-based analogies. For example, federalism divides power between the national govt and the states, just like school, because the front office has power like the national government and so do the classroom teachers, like states. Another example is when we have a three-legged race to show how our three branch government prevents any one branch from abusing power, the effectiveness of separation of powers. Or when we use rock paper scissors to show how each branch gets checked by the others.

I truly am not just a talking head.

Granted, the concepts are abstract and the terms are fancy: ratification, federalism, checks and balances, separation of powers. I check for understanding. In the moment, they get it.

I am turning to my colleagues for help, because I am apparently being blind to some glaring weakness or issue. I need their eyes to help me see what's going on. Or not going on.

I do expect them to look at their notes for one minute every night, and pretty much no one does. Is that me shifting the blame to them? Is it wrong for me to expect them to carry some of the intellectual weight around here? How much learning responsibility is theirs? If I don't blame them, I have to blame me. Doggone it, I work so hard it's demoralizing to accept responsibility for the results.

Fourteen kids in each of the three classes earned a grade below C level--even with a free point for the question #34: "Hey! How'd you like to earn a free point right now? A. No thanks, trying to cut back.  B. I am just randomly bubbling, hoping to work two minimum wage jobs someday. C. Why thanks Miss M--that's so awesome!"

Every year.



  1. From my knowledge being only that of which you post here, and of my own personal experience learning from you, I don't think the blame lies with you -- though it is definitely a good thing you at least consider that which shows you are trying to find the root of the problem.

    I really think its a matter of kids just mentally checking out (holiday -- either coming up or coming back) or having their priorities in the wrong places so the homework takes a backseat or might not be as invested in it. One minute per night is not asking too much. I'd think the average expectations is 5-10 minutes per subject/class in middle/high school.

    In short, I don't think your expectations are unrealistic and you seem to be doing the best you can. All I can really do is send you a virtual hug of support since it sounds like you need it. But I do hope you colleagues can help and figure out where the problem is.

    Also that bonus question is awesome. I have a hard time deciding which of those three I'd want to answer -- yes even B for the laughs.

    Though, boy I hope no one is still randomly bubbling (or worse putting all B/C or whatever kids thing is the average most correct answer).

  2. Thanks for the support...I accept that virtual hug wholeheartedly. No one is randomly bubbling, and I went over the test and showed them how logic can help them answer questions.

    I asked them how many teachers have taught them how to study, of all my 1.5 jillion children, only one: "Mrs Q taught us to look at our notes and ask questions." I showed them two more ways (highlighting their notes and the study guide and how to use our Cornell notes). I am just going to have to shake this one off. I'm still gonna drag it all in front of my colleagues at our next meeting, but if I dwell on it I'll get too frustrated.

    I will spiral some of the questions onto the next test we have. By dint of repetition maybe some will get some concepts in their head. You have a valid point about the student who is perennially enthusiastic mentioned the break and the class "uh huh-ed" its confirmation. OK, so onward and upward. But thanks for your moral support. I sooo needed it.

  3. Oh yeah, even in my student days I'd tune out a bit from breaks. It happens to a lot of us, unfortunately. Doing some kind of review when getting back usually helps though but of course not so much that it distracts from moving on to new subjects.

    Your idea of repeating some questions into the next test sounds fair. I've had that happen on a few college tests when a good chunk of the class bombed some important questions. It was easy points for those of us that got it right the first time, and a way to reinforce the material for those who didn't. Scores usually improved on the next test

    Your showing them studying tips sounds handy. I think I remember you showing our class such before too, since your tips sound very familiar.

    Oh and I am all too familiar with dwelling and how negative it can be, but it can be hard not to sometimes. But best of luck to move past this, you can do it!