Attendance was light today, as always on the day before a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas break. My eleventh grade engineering class was close to being there in full force [of those who are normally there], which I was proud of. That group I have developed a positive relationship with, and made clear I was expecting them today, and that we would be learning/doing new things today. My tenth grade geometry class was much fewer in number. They are (relatively) new to the program/academy, and I haven’t built up as good a relationship with them yet. It is also last period – some who had come earlier in the day may have left out by then for an early Thanksgiving break.
A few students who came today said they weren’t doing anything in other classes, why am I making them do work? I wish that, like other school systems, we had today off. Or at least a half day, like other systems. But if we are here and have school, it is a normal day of lessons: we are learning new things, and the work we are doing is important. I try to emphasize that to students in my explanations, as well as show by example.
In Geometry, we completed an exploration into how to construct a circle that goes through three predetermined points. This is one of the top three skills related to circles that we learn. Those who finished early played a game of polygon capture. In the small setting, I was able to really push their thinking about why certain things were true (i.e. proofs of what/how we were constructing circles).
In CIM, we reviewed reading programs that control a robotic arm, worked on analyzing them critically, both answering questions and filling in missing parts of a program. This is a skill vital to their understanding of the work we do in the class (reading, writing, and analyzing programs of different types is probably 75% of the course material) and therefore also important to the final exam that can help them earn college credit for their engineering coursework while still in high school. After that, students added to their online portfolios.
Reminders: Please support my moustache & Baltimore students by donating, and please support my partners in Baltimore’s NaBloPoMo by visiting and commenting:
Attendance is a big issue, both at my school and generally in Baltimore City Public Schools. For several years, I’ve wanted to give out perfect attendance awards. I’ve admired the certificates given out by another teacher; I’ve thought about how they could help improve attendance as positive reinforcement (instead of only the negative: sending letters home to students who have missed an excessive number of days); I’ve intended to begin creating and passing out similar certificates. But every time the end of the month rolls around there’s always something more urgent on my plate and I let go of the idea.
This year, I finally followed through and gave out perfect attendance certificates (and a snack) to students who had perfect attendance for the entire month of September. And, even though grading and entering grades delayed it for a bit, I gave out October’s perfect attendance awards today (two more than in September! – a tiny bit of circumstantial evidence that it may be working).
One student let out an excited shout upon seeing the award with his name on it (or was it because of the snack?). Another who had received an award for October was a model student today, even volunteering to go up to the board, whereas yesterday he had put his head down for part of the class and refused to participate. I encourage all students, when they earn an award (from perfect attendance, or from events/competitions) to save the certificates in their portfolios/binders.
Anyway, nothing big or earth-shattering, but I’m happy that I’ve started doing perfect attendance certificates. And I plan to continue to do them each month!
Sue Fothergill recently posted a new ‘Audacious Idea’ on how to improve the massive attendance problem in Baltimore’s schools: time and structured ways to develop new friendships.
She begins by describing the magnitude of the problem. “For the past three school years, over 40% percent of Baltimore City public high school students have missed a month or more of school making them chronically absent and last school year 49% of 9th graders missed at least a month of school.” I agree that this is one of the foremost issues we face in the city school system; I referred to my experience with absences here.
But I am skeptical about her plan to fix this issue:
Friendships matter—fostering them to improve school attendance is my audacious idea.
What if every high school had a comprehensive program to facilitate friendships amongst their incoming 9th graders? City Schools should consider creating opportunities for new high school students to become friends, during summer transitional programs, through increased after-school opportunities, and by providing socialization time during the school day while also ensuring that students have the opportunity to talk and learn about positive relationships.
Perhaps it is just my lack of knowledge about how to provide this structured socialization time, as opposed to unstructured socialization during lunchtime or while hanging in the halls. I don’t know how to successfully create these friendship opportunities (other than via after-school clubs and field trips, both of which I have been involved in), so I doubt that this plan will work. Can someone convince me otherwise? What do you do to build new friendships between students at your school? Maybe I should take another read through the Virtual Conference on Soft Skills.