Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We Sure Know How to Throw One Heck of a Family Night

Well, yesterday wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

By the time I got to school, some of my voice had returned...and I sounded more like a teenage boy going through puberty than a woman who had lost her voice.  My voice squeaked and cracked... but it was a lot more than just a whisper.

Although, trying to quiet a class of 20 kids wasn't fun.  Once they heard my squeaky voice, though, they were a lot more attentive to my needs throughout the day.

Despite not really having much of a voice, I did have a MUCH better day at work than I did on Monday. The kids still struggled a little through the morning, but by the afternoon they were back to their regular old selves.  I was able to hang up my Cranky Pants for a little while and be a lot more calm.

I did come down on them pretty hard, yesterday morning though.  By the time recess rolled around, all but five of my class were standing a small portion of their recess.  I told them that because I wasn't able to yell to get their attention, or have the voice to repeat myself over and over again, I would just write names on the board to get their attention.  It didn't have near as the effect I thought it would... being that as the list of names started to grow, there wasn't THAT much change in their behavior.

Things started to get a little different, though, when I handed out their weekly reading contract.  

My kids all have a spelling contract and a reading contract each week.  It's basically a list of assignments that they have to do and a few they get to choose to do.  Kind of like a menu of options.  They have set days in which they do some of the work and other assignments are done when they choose to do them... as long as they are done by the specified due date.

One thing I started a couple of weeks ago was making the deadlines according to the grades that were being made in the class.

What I mean is, the kids that are making an average of 75% or higher get a lot longer time to complete their work.  Those students that are making an average of less than 75% have to turn in assignments each day.

The reasoning behind it is the fact that those kids with the lower averages have those grades mostly because of not turning in homework.  When I first started the contract, the entire class had all week long in which to complete their assignments.  What I discovered, however, is that several kids just didn't do the work.  Having that much freedom was too much for them, and they then panicked on the last day when they realized that they still had so much to do.  That, in turn, led to several zeros and a large decrease to their grades.

Now, their work and due dates is more structured.  They don't see it that way, though.  The kids that are making good grades are being given a gift of freedom....something that is coveted by those that aren't.  

Since changing the assignment due dates based on grades, there has been quite a spike in grades.  A couple of weeks ago, when it first started, I only had about 5 kids that had all week long to do their work.  When I handed the contracts out yesterday, it was an even split.  Half the kids had all week, half didn't.  I look at that as progress.

I'm really trying to instill some responsibility in to their learning.  By giving them choice in their assignments, and flexibility in their due dates, I'm hoping to achieve a better level of self dependence and help them understand that I'm not going to chase after them all week looking for assignments that are due.  They are in charge of their grades.  They either do the work or they don't.  Simple.

And once they got those contracts in their hands, yesterday, the atmosphere in the room changed...and it was back to business.

The rest of the day went very well, and they ended up leaving happy.

After school, the teachers all started the preparations for our second annual Ghost Story Family Night.  We served hotdogs and s'mores...and the families were able to roast their hotdogs and marshmallows on open fire pits while being entertained with music and ghost stories.  

We had a great turn out.  About 275 people showed up.

The 3rd and 4th grade teams were responsible for getting the food ready, and we spent a good portion of the evening inside handing out plates.  Once the line started to die down, I was able to go outside and enjoy some of the entertainment.

Thankfully, the weather was perfect for the occasion.  It was warm, but not hot.  The fire pits set the ambiance perfectly.  Families gathered all over the playground visiting and getting to know each other.  When I think of Family Night, it's exactly that scene that I imagine.

Most Family Nights I've attended in other schools feels more like a meeting than an event.  People sit by themselves at tables and listen to a speaker or look at each other uncomfortably while something is supposed to be taking place.

Having a family night where the whole point is to mingle and have a good time was a perfect way to spend the evening.

We didn't get home until after 8:30PM, and it wasn't long before I was in bed.  It had been a long day, and I was ready to get some rest.

Today is the last full day of learning for the week.  Tomorrow will be spent celebrating Halloween all day long.  Friday, we're having a Fall Festival that will take up the entire afternoon.  So, the pressure will be on today to get through everything that needs to be done.

I'm confident that it's going to be a good day.  

My voice has just about returned to normal, so I will be able to take back control of my room.  Of course, I could play it off for one more day...and soak it up for all it's worth.  But, I know I'll end up letting on at some point that my voice really isn't gone anymore...and I'll be busted.

It was fun while it lasted, though.  HA!

OK, that's it for me.

I better run... it's time for me to get dressed....


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