Friday, June 21, 2013

Stuff They Should Teach in College: Dealing with Make-Up Work

   Kids don't come to school.  Am I right?  Seriously, attendance issues are the worst.  No amount of my lecturing or cajoling will convince teenagers that near-constant school attendance is really necessary.  I'm not one to complain about the kids, because I adore them.  Really I do.  But one thing I will complain about a lot is make-up work.  It is a thorn in my side, a Kanye in my TSwift, and a cramp in my style every day. Every teacher I know agrees; it's a never-ending battle.  How do we keep up with, organize, and grade student make-up work?  This should be its own course in college. 

   My first year of teaching, I was oh-so-sweet a complete pushover and accepted any and all make-up work at any point before the end of the grading period.  This meant that most kids turned in nothing until the final three days of the grading period, leaving me looking a bit like this on the day grades were due.  Obviously, that had to end. Also obviously, I am a phenomenal artist.  And purple.

   Then I started creating a make-up work binder.  I put the binder on top of a file cabinet in my room, and used tab dividers to organize it by class period.  Then, I typed up a note detailing what we had done in that class at the end of every day, and put those inside.  I put extra handouts in a labeled file, and kids were responsible for collecting and completing their own make-up work.  This only took a few minutes, but I found that I often forgot to do it.  I also have the worst memory ever, so trying to do this the next day (or even several days later) was nearly impossible.  I liked it because it put the responsibility on the students, but I found that about 70% of the time, they just didn't bother.  I teach mostly 9th graders, and it seems like they may be used to things being handed to them more directly.  

   I used this system for several years, but I became increasingly frustrated with it, so I changed my system mid-year this year.  I know, it's crazy to change in the middle.  Life was crazy this year.  (Thanks, NBPTS.)  

  I changed to a system, inspired by this pin, which requires students to jot down a list of make-up assignments for their peers.  The handout I created (which is a more grown-up version of the one I saw on Pinterest) looks like this:

Feel free to use this in your own classroom, friends!

In theory, this is awesome:  it moves more responsibility from myself to the students, and saves me some work.  In reality?  In the hustle and bustle of the start of class, I forget.  The kids forget.  I am hoping to stick with this system and just stop forgetting everything all the time, but I'm always on the lookout for improvements.  

Any suggestions?  I'd love to hear what others do.

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