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Friday, April 01, 2011

Bad Mood Bear

Why is it that I always seem to be in the worst moods on days after I've had a substitute? I was totally upset with my homeroom before 8:00 this morning, and my afternoon class didn't fare much better.

An extremely large part of this stemmed from the fact that almost none of the kids seemed to have done what they were supposed to yesterday, a day that I was out of the classroom attending a training. We have been working on a packet of 2-step word problems all week long, and their task yesterday was to complete the last 2 pages. There were 3 problems on each page, making a total of 6 problems to complete.

This was very nearly ALL that I had left for the substitute yesterday, meaning that the kids had nearly 2 hours to complete these 6 problems. Granted, they were two-step problems, where the answer choices were incomplete number sentences (ie, 24+35-17) that they had to solve first. In class Monday-Wednesday, these problems took the kids 10-20 minutes each to complete.

Give that parameter, I could understand a few kids not quite finishing the last problem. But aside from the four kids in my homeroom (NONE in my afternoon class) who finished all 6 problems, hardly anybody else was even close to finishing the two pages! Most of the kids didn't even finish the FIRST page! A couple of kids didn't even do ANY of the problems on those pages, because they didn't follow directions, instead working on another page.

The sub had posted directions on the board with the correct page numbers, so I know that the kids had been told what they needed to do. Also, except for a few kids who had been pulled for eye exams, nobody spoke up to tell me anything like, "The sub didn't tell us what to do!" or "The sub made us play games and color all day long!"

On top of all that, there were 3 kids in my homeroom and 2 in my afternoon class who did not bring completed homework. I've written at length about homework on this blog, and even gotten advice and strategies from other teachers. I know I should probably adopt the attitude of "any homework turned in is gravy," but I am not to that point yet. Especially with this one.

Our school's policy is to give math homework on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week. This Tuesday, I passed out a homework with 5 two-step word problems on it. I told the kids that I knew these problems took a lot of time and that I was going to be very nice and give them extra time. That this homework was due not on Wednesday, but on Friday. That there would be no homework on Thursday. That they had 3 days to complete all 5 problems.

I then stressed that this was important practice for the test we'd be having Friday (today). That there would be no excuses at all accepted for not completing it and bringing it on Friday. That they needed to do ALL 5 and show all the work, the way we've been practicing. That anyone who DID, would have a chance to win the plants we've been observing in science. That anyone who did NOT, would get a code in their conduct folder, would get a zero in the gradebook, would lose recess and have to clean the cafeteria after lunch for 2 weeks, would have to explain to our assistant principal why they had not done the homework.

I thought I had gone fire-and-brimstoney enough for all of them, but I still had those 5 come unprepared this morning. 2 of them had done some of the problems, but not all. The other 3 claimed to have done the homework at home, but that they had forgotten to bring it. Crazily enough, they all had their homework FOLDERS, just not the homework. I asked how often they bring a lunchbox with no food in it, but I think the sarcasm was lost on them.

One of the boys also initially told me that he did the homework but forgot to bring it. He then changed his story to say that his pencil had broken and that he therefore could not finish the problems. According to his sob story, he only had that one pencil at home, and his one and only pencil sharpener was in the shop as well.

At lunchtime, I took these 5 kids down to the assistant principal's office to make good on THAT promise. She asked them when I had given them the homework, and none of the kids could even tell her that! I asked them what days I assigned math homework, and they looked at me cluelessly, before beginning to guess. Wednesday? Thursday? Saturday?

Yeah, the kids with the broken pencil and sharpener said that I give them homework on Saturdays. I almost asked the AP if she still REALLY needed me to turn in my forecast of who would be passing TAKS.

She then asked the kids one at a time what their excuse was. There was the forgetting. There was blaming the mom. ("I gave it to my mom to look at, and she didn't give it back to me!") One kid stated matter-0f-factly, "Because I was too lazy." I almost cracked up at that one.

I don't think I've ever signed so many conduct folders in one day. Only 3 kids escaped with no code today. Should have been 4, but one of the kids who DID his work yesterday didn't get his conduct folder signed last night!

I suppose if there's any silver lining to this, it's that I saved on candy. I give a piece of candy to everyone who didn't get any codes each week. Last week, I gave out around 20 candies. This week, 3.

Bring on the weekend.

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