I’ve made many mistakes in my short life. I’ve forgotten to put the toilet seat down, leave a tip at a restaurant, and put money in the parking meter. I’m far from perfect. Luckily though, I was given second chances to prove my true worth as a person. I make sure to tip at least 20% when I go out to eat with my family, put more money than is necessary in parking meters, and almost always put the seat down after using the toilet. Because I had other chances to make my mistakes right, I learned much from these experiences. I wonder if I would have learned from those indiscretions had I not been given the opportunity to make better choices and fix my mistakes.
Like me, my students need to be provided second chances when they make mistakes as failure is a crucial part of the learning process. If I don’t provide my students chances to learn from their mistakes, how will they ever learn the value in trying and failing? I don’t expect perfection and so I want my students to feel supported and cared for; therefore, I need to allow my students to redo work that does not meet the objectives so that they learn, now, while they are still in school, how to make the right choices. If students do not meet the graded objectives when their work is assessed, they need to redo the assignment until it at least meets the objectives. This usually starts with a conversation. “Why did you not meet the objectives?” I might ask the student. I will then refer to the assignment rubric or instructions, asking them to read the assignment requirements aloud to me. During this process, they are usually able to notice what they did not do correctly or accurately. I then ask them if they understand what it is they need to do. I want to be sure they comprehend what is being asked of them. If a student fails to include an opening sentence in his paragraph and that is one of the requirements, I might ask the student if they know what a topic sentence is before I let them work on their own. The students are then on their own to redo the assignment by the close of the term or unit. When they turn in their work, I meet with them to conference about the work and process involved. I want to be able to praise them for putting in the extra effort to redo their work while also reminding them of the importance of following instructions and completing work ahead of time so that they can receive feedback before the assignment is due. I want my students to value the importance of effort and focus on the skills rather than the final grade. Providing students with a second chance to meet graded objectives allows this ethos to be developed within the students.
This afternoon, I met with a student who had to redo a major STEM project that was due back in early February. Because he failed to meet the four objectives on which the assignment was being assessed, he needed to redo the project. While he had redone it two weeks ago, he had left it with his mother who had flown back to Korea. So, she needed to send it to the school. When I reviewed the math storybook that he had crafted, I realized he was missing one crucial requirement. He did not include a sample problem that showed he understood how to apply the four steps of the problem solving process. Rather than have him redo his book again just to include this page, I had him orally walk me through one of his problems using the four-step problem solving process. As I had thought, he understood the process and was able to correctly apply the four steps when solving a math word problem. Had I not met with him and simply had him turn the assignment in, I would not have been able to ask him follow-up questions or check for understanding in an informal manner. I would have only been able to grade him on what I had in front of me. Although he did not meet the original deadline, I am much more concerned with this particular student’s ability to follow and interpret directions. He has struggled with this issue all year. So, I wanted to give him a chance to really look at the requirements and redo the work in a way that allowed him to demonstrate his ability to meet the objectives. Giving him this second chance and having a conversation with him this afternoon, helped him understand why following directions and completing work prior to the due dates in order to receive feedback are such crucial skills he needs to focus on moving forward. School should never be about grades or deadlines, it’s about progress, growth, and character development.