Fourth grade was a challenging year for me as a student. I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. Some days were better than others. I hated school on some days, but then loved it on other days. In retrospect, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to what caused good days vs the bad ones. At this same time, I also struggled being able to see well. I didn’t want to tell my parents because that meant that I would need glasses. Back in the 1980s, if you wore glasses, you were labelled a geek and picked on mercilessly. Life was already hard enough for me, and so I just rode it out. I sat in the back of the class, straining to read anything the teacher had written on the blackboard. I didn’t have many friends back then either. Life was tough. Despite all of these big things going on in my life, one of the most vivid memories from my year in fourth grade was when my teacher held me accountable for not doing my work. Here’s the story…
It was a mid-Autumn, Monday afternoon. I had just gotten off the bus near my house and walked home. The sound of crunching leaves echoed throughout the neighborhood as children ran to their homes. After using the restroom and having a delicious snack, my mom made me sit down and do my homework. While I was never a big fan of homework, looking back on how my parents addressed it, I appreciated the structure as it helped mold me into a strong student. My homework was a spelling worksheet. I hated spelling, but I was good at it. So, I whipped through it quite quickly. As I finished the worksheet, my mom rushed my sister and I out of the house for some sort of family thing. My memory of the specifics regarding what we were doing isn’t quite as strong as the rest of this story, but we had something to do that prevented me from putting my worksheet into my backpack. We then got home very late that evening. I went to school the next day, not having put my spelling worksheet into my bag. So, when my teacher asked for us to hand in the worksheet, I didn’t have mine. My consequence was detention that evening. I was mortified. I went to the bathroom and cried. I then had to go to the office and call my parents to tell them to pick me up later. It was an incredibly traumatic experience that ingrained within me the importance of being prepared and organized. From that day forward, I never missed another assignment. The moral of the story is that being held accountable taught me a valuable lesson.
As a teacher, I see the power in holding students accountable. If a student doesn’t complete work to demonstrate their ability to meet an assessed objective, there needs to be some sort of consequence or repercussion so that he or she learns the value in completing a task. If students are able to get away with not completing work, even if they don’t pass the course, will they ever truly learn the skill of follow-through? In my class, if a student doesn’t complete a task, assignment, or project, I work with him outside of class during his free time to be sure he completes the work or is able to meet the objective being graded. In order to be sure that I am properly preparing my students for the next grade, I need to do my job and equip them with the appropriate and necessary skills. Every assignment or learning task is important to me, as I assess their ability as students.
In Humanities class yesterday, my students participated in a fun and engaging Poetry Slam, as they turned in their final Poetry Book for the unit. The students had a blast reciting their poems aloud to the group in a unique manner. Many of my students even chose to don the beanie hat I have as a prop. While they read and listened to some amazing pieces of creative poetry, they enjoyed some tasty treats with which I provided them. It was a very special activity, as they worked very hard to complete this difficult task of revising their poems and putting them together in an organized and aesthetically pleasing way. Laughter filled the room as the boys shared their poems with their classmates. The students got into character, altered their voice, walked around the room, used hand gestures, and had fun reading their phenomenal verses aloud to the class.
Prior to Friday’s due date for this project, I told the students that those who don’t have their final Poetry Books completed according to the requirements and ready tor turn in by the start of third period on Friday would be unable to participate in our festive Poetry Slam in class. The boys were very aware of the learning task, due date, and consequence for failing to complete the assignment on time. All but two students were ready and prepared for class on Friday with their Poetry Book finished and turned in. Before we got into our Poetry Slam, I had those two students exit the room to work on the task that they did not finish. While one of the students tried to debate that he did actually have his Poetry Book finished, I reminded him that it wasn’t completed according to the requirements listed via the learning portal. Those two students missed our super fun, engaging, and enjoyable Poetry Slam to complete work that should have been finished outside of class.
While they missed the tasty snacks and humor that ran rampant through the room during our final Poetry Slam, I’m hopeful that those two students learned a lesson in time management. In life, if you don’t complete something according to the due date, you are penalized. If you fail to renew your license prior to its expiration date, you could face a stiff fine or penalty. To prepare my students to live meaningful lives in a global society, they need to understand how the world works. By holding my students accountable and doling out consequences for not completing work on time, I am helping to teach them a valuable lesson that will serve them well in the future.