Tag Archives: succeed

If at First You Don’t Succeed….


I’ve been thinking . . . which some would say is dangerous . . . but that’s another conversation.  I’ve been thinking a LOT about grading and allowing “redos” for missing grades or for low grades or even for not so low grades.

On one hand, students need to learn responsibility and accountability so it makes sense that they need to turn-in assignments when they are due and they need to be held accountable when they don’t study for a test and make a 60. Sure, they do . . . makes sense . . . otherwise we’ll be raising irresponsible citizens who won’t be successful in the “real world”, right?

Ehhhh…I don’t know.

In my job, if I’m asked to submit an analysis of test scores and I don’t do it, my boss doesn’t fire me.  Nope, I’m not that lucky . . . JOKE 🙂  There is some consequence for my choice, but I still have to submit the analysis of the test scores.

I don’t get out of the work.

If I’m required to submit my lesson plans following a certain format and I use the wrong format, I don’t get off the hook.  Nope, I would have to redo my work until it was satisfactory.

I don’t get out of the work.

So . . . the question that begs to be answered is this – why do we, as teachers, let our students get out of the work?


For me, when I really, really, really think about that question, the answer is apparent.  I should never let my students get out of work.   Which creates more work for me.  Which really freaked me out when I was considering doing this . . .  like, kept me up at night wondering if it was really worth it.  I fought it.  I came up with excuse after excuse of why it was a bad idea.  I forced my husband to endure several long car rides while I debated the issue aloud . . . poor guy.

But, my thoughts kept circling back to, “I should never let my students get out of the work”.

So, I did it.  I’ve done it.  It’s did.  My students can redo all assignments and tests (except six weeks tests, semester exams, and the Big Daddy benchmarks) . . . more than once if they so choose.  A few still don’t believe it.  A handful of them don’t like it.  Some of them haven’t redone anything.  It’s their choice.

And, that my friends, is the point.  It’s their choice.  It’s up to them.  They hold all the cards on this.  They have control over their own academic destiny in my class.

I hear what you’re thinking..I used to think it too…they’ve always had control over their own destiny as students…but have they really?

In some ways, yes.  But in others, not so much . . . not AFTER they’ve turned in the assignment anyway.  Before, they would turn in a test and think it was all over but the crying.  Now they know IT’S NEVER OVER . . . they decide if they find their grade acceptable or not . . . if they want, they take the steps to change it.  Their success, or lack of, is totally their decision.

If Bob is happy with a 70 on that test over multi-step equations, OK.  If not, he can retake the test (a different version, of course).  If SusieQ doesn’t like the 92 on last night’s homework, she is welcome to do another assignment covering the same concepts.  If Vicki blows off her project and makes a 20, she knows she has the option of completely redoing it . . . and if her MOM wants to conference with me about that 20, I will make sure that MOM knows she can redo the project as well . . . see how I did that?

So, am I glad I did it?  YES.  I really am.  Is it more work?  YES.  It really is.  But, not as much as I thought.  And, most importantly, it has shifted things . . . from teacher to student . . . which, surprisingly, has led to a less stressful environment for all of us.

They know that if at first they don’t succeed, they can try, try again  . . . and again  . . . and again.

It’s Kinda Like Potato Chips . . .

English: A pile of potato chips. These are Utz...

English: A pile of potato chips. These are Utz-brand, grandma’s kettle-cooked style. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Technology . . . like opening a bag of potato chips, I find myself unable to stop after eating just one.  My students cram them in their mouths so fast they swallow without chewing, all the while reaching for another handful.

You know how it is.  You don’t even think you’re hungry.  You weren’t even thinking about eating potato chips.

But.  Then.  You see the bag.  Maybe you don’t even open the bag.  Maybe someone else opens the bag.  “Want one?” they ask.  You don’t want to be rude.  “Sure, why not?” you respond.

And that, my friends, is all it takes.

Soon you are up to your elbows.  Greasy fingers.  Crumbs on your shirt.  Truthfully, the only thing to do at that point is wipe your fingers on your jeans and swipe your screen, looking for the next perfectly shaped chip . . . just one more . . . three at the most . . . OK, just a handful . . .

I am of the PONG generation.  Rotary dial phones.  When Pac-Man and Asteroids were the arcade games of choice . . . because they were the ONLY choices.  Childcraft Encyclopedias with actual pages to turn.  I was there at the beginning of remote controls for televisions.   I witnessed the arrival of the automatic door at the local grocery store.  “Be careful,” my mom warned, “It could cut your arm off!”  Typing class in high school with White-Out . . . ASDFJKL;

We didn’t know what we didn’t have.

And. Then.

It all changed, didn’t it?  In the blink of an eye.  PONG got put away on a shelf in the garage along with my Mattel handheld basketball game.  And, once you open that bag of chips . . .

Computers, cell phones, gaming systems, digital this, gigabyte of that, social media, and apps, apps, apps.  It’s like living in an episode of that future-themed cartoon “The Jetsons”.  I am often confused.  I don’t know this new language.  But I hold tight to the chip bag before me.  And the more I eat . . . the more I get!  OK, so maybe I don’t GET IT, but I can keep up with the conversation . . . most of the time.

You see, I teach.  I teach junior high students.  I didn’t (and don’t) have the option of saying, “I’m just not into technology.”  I had to get it.  I have to get it.  Because THEY have to get it.  Things aren’t changing back.  If I want my students to be prepared for their future – heck, for their present – I’ve got to help them.  That’s my job.  That’s what I do.  Students need to be guided through this technological world in which they live.  Notice I say guided, not necessarily taught.  Any and all of my junior high students can teach me under the table when it comes to technology…and they know it.

BUT.  They still need guidance.  They need to be taught about choices and the impact of their digital footprints.  They need to consider the implications of their words and pictures and videos.  They need to be taught to question the information they can access so easily and know how to check its validity.  Back to the potato chips…they need someone telling them to read the label…someone telling them they don’t have to eat the whole bag TODAY . . . someone telling them that there are some bags of chips that they should leave sealed.

For that, they need me.

You see, if not me . . . if not their teacher . . . then who?  Parents? Church? Girl Scouts of America?  Nope.  Should it have to be me?  Not at all.  But it is me, nonetheless.  Little Susie needs to know that the racy pictures she sends to her boyfriend are never going to be completely deleted and can be considered child porn.  Little Stuart needs to know that the comments he puts online using the “f” word along with all the other high-impact profanity he knows will be looked at by admissions offices at colleges along with the photos of him and his buddies passed out amidst a sea of empty beer cans that his prospective employers will one day view.

So, I embrace that bag of potato chips . . . for the sole purpose of helping my students . . . yeah, right.  If you know me, you know I love a bag of chips.   And, if my love of chips can be combined with helping my students, I am in fried potato heaven.

Go on.  Open the bag.  Bet you can’t eat just one.