Monday, May 14, 2012

After State Test Movies -or- 5 Ways to Combat the End of the Year

Drive In Movie Sign 

It’s officially mid-May and that means some teachers are ready to be done with school for the year.  You can see it on their faces when they walk in the building in the morning.  Hidden behind venti Starbucks cups they grumble as they shoot you the evil eye on their way to the classroom.  

Once there they fire up the DVD player, turn off the lights and hope for the best.   Students come -students go. Play - pause -stop …. play - pause - stop.  They doze in their over-sized office chair brought in from home.  Any student brave enough to speak is sent to the office for ‘class disruption.’

At night they practice telling their spouses how movies like ‘2012,’ ‘Finding Nemo’ and ‘The Princess Bride’ fit into the curriculum.   They write objectives like, “Students will compare and contrast the picture of medieval life as portrayed in the film [film sounds better than movie] ‘The Princess Bride’ with the actual portrait of life studied in Unit 3.”

They make sure every student has written the objective at the top of their paper just in case an administrator walks in.   The papers will never be collected.

Tough situation and not an easy fix.  Especially since it's (almost) understandable.  In our world of high stakes testing the end of the curriculum and the end of the year do not coincide.  

So what to do?

1) Express to your teachers from day one that your expectation and belief is that everyday is an instructional day.  That includes the days before and after breaks, half days, spirit days, adjusted dismissal days, and everyday after the test.

2) Continue observations - formal and informal - through the last day of school.  Have your APs do the same.  Follow-up with written summaries and use the observations for evaluative purposes.  Write documenting and summary letters when needed.  Document conversations with emails.

3) Walk the halls and put an end to lessons that do not meet your standards.  Be diplomatic but have the tough conversations.  “Dr. Smith, I noticed your students watching an animated film today - can you tell me what your instructional objects were?” -Listen to response - “Huh, doesn’t sound very rigorous - Remember the expectation here at Suburban High School is that students will receive quality instruction through the end of the year.”

4) Explain the bigger picture.  Low engagement activities - like watching films - increase opportunity for student misconduct.  I often think, who’s to blame in those instances, the student or the teacher?

5) If someone really is retiring at the end of the year - help them to exit the profession gracefully.  There are some slight-of-hand type things your HR department can do if someone needs the last few weeks of school off but we won’t tell you (or the teacher) unless you ask.  

Photo credit - Brett O'Connor, "negatendo," CCL

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