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!"