Friday, October 16, 2015

Week 8: Life and Its Lessons (Week of 10/16/2015)

SPOILER ALERT!!! This blog is a long one. :)

It's been a whirlwind of a week! I'm certainly exhausted as I sit here typing this, but proud of my students and their hard work this week in class. Our first quarter ends in one week and it's a fight to the finish.

Today, students were dealt the first of many tough lessons they'll learn this year and throughout their academic life. Today, the written portion of their Independent Book Projects were due and students were visibly anxious and flustered; some had finished their projects and some had not. Mrs. Schwoerer reports that her library was packed to the gills before school and during break with students in a panic, fighting over computers to print their projects. It happens every time, every year, but we can dream of a world where the last minute isn't used for stress printing, right? Unfortunately, some students had projects that were (or will be) late and others were steamrolled by the deadline, projects unfinished or not started yet.

I'd like to share with you some knowledge I shared with my students today:

Now is a great time to talk about projects and Mr. Laffin's class. In my class, I want my students to be successful. In order to help my students find success, I provide them with an abundance of time to finish big projects. Those done in-class, like their Anti-Bullying Policy research projects, have adequate, monitored time and are completed mostly in class. Those done outside of class, like their Independent Book Projects, are assigned at the beginning of the quarter and due one week before the end of the quarter. Regardless of the time given, my students need me. My goal is to hit the state standards while at the same time teaching them life skills, like time management, goal setting, and working cooperatively with others. I like to watch my students work, guiding them, encouraging them, supporting them, and redirecting them.

With projects, I stress as much about the things I can't control as the things I can. In the picture above, I CAN control how much time I gave my students to complete the project, when their assignments and rubrics were handed out, and how much reading I assign for homework. What I CAN'T control is student reading. There's realistically no way to control how much a student reads and how quickly, or that they're reading at all. Reading logs, in my opinion, are an abysmal failure. Constantly checking in on a student's reading and requiring assignments takes the fun out of something that should be enjoyable. It's easily the toughest aspect of my job. I haven't discovered the happy medium between pleasure reading and making sure my students are reading at grade level yet.

Sadly, as happens every time I assign a project, some students still scramble to finish theirs at the last minute, citing lack of time, confusion on the directions, or homework-eating family pets. It's hard not to take these things personally, but I do. It's the absolute worst part of my job and it's my personal quirk to deal with, not the students' fault. Still, their failure is my failure. No matter how much time I give them in class or over the course of the quarter, no matter how much explanation I give, no matter how many times I ask them to tell their neighbors the directions and then have them repeat those directions to me, we still get some projects that are left incomplete or not done at all. Oh, the adolescent brain.

As a teacher, I'm constantly assessing and tweaking what I do in the classroom. Any and all constructive input is welcome. If I may, I'd like to ask you to bring up the importance of time management and following directions with your student this week, be it over dinner or in the car on the way to practice. We have our Independent Book Project presentations Monday-Thursday of next week with make-ups happening on Friday. The following Monday, we begin our Bullying Project presentations. Below is another bit of knowledge I shared with my students today:

For the week of October 19-23, students will be assigned no homework, with the exception of finishing their Bullying Projects. I will be hosting a Computer Lab Takeover in the G-2 computer lab Monday, October 19- Friday, October 23 from 3pm-4pm. If students need support on their projects, I'd love to help them in the lab. If they just need a quiet, cool place to work, I'm happy to provide that for them in the lab. Please make arrangements to take advantage of this opportunity.

I apologize for my long-windedness (that's a nice way of saying, "my inability to shut up"). The English major in me creeps out every week when I write these blogs. We're doing so much exciting stuff in class!!!

Thank you, as always, for being a part of your child's continuing education and for being part of an incredible team of support for your child.

Don't forget to be awesome!
Kevin Laffin

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Laffin -
    This is a very informative post! Thanks for sharing everything you do for your students, and how stressed you feel as well! (I relate to pretty much everything you said.) Remember that a hard lesson learned now might make for a smoother experience in the future for our students. Failure is always an opportunity to learn!