Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bearer of Bad News

How do I best communicate bad grades to students? After the first test, it was obvious widespread communication would be needed. The average was a D. Way too many students were doing poorly waay too early in the year. They needed an intervention.

But what's the most effective way to deliver the news? I didn't want to call the whole class out. I was advised against this, since it punishes the successful, high-achieving students in the class and humiliates the low-students. I decided to use the small-group/individual more private setting. As they worked on their labs, I went down my highlighted list of students I needed to talk to and circulated to each one. In groups of one, twos, and threes, I patiently delivered the same news:

"Your grade is a D or lower. You need to do something different. You can do one of three things: study harder, study smarter, and/or make an appointment to see me during lunch, or after school." I followed up with an explanation of study smarter (study strategies and tips which I could teach them, such as active reading, note-taking, test-prep, and test-taking strategies). This was followed up with my site's policy on Fs on progress reports: 1st progress report--academic referral. 2nd F-student is kicked out of the class.

I thought this policy was kinda harsh, and I told my students so. I felt so bad for them. Some of them were almost in tears. I tried to reassure some of them it wasn't too late to change. The year was still young. I encouraged them: if they worked hard in class, studied hard outside of class, and saw me for help outside of class, they would not fail.

Students have been seeing me on a regular basis at lunch and after school. It's been invaluable for building my bond with each student and getting to know them as an individual. Some of their grades have increased dramatically, which has been the best news. I've also called parents of students with Ds or Fs to tell them how to help their student succeed. The majority of students, however, continue to fail. How do I convince them to do something different?

1 comment:

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