Today’s post comes from a recent email (used with permission, of course) from a member of our community. For privacy, I changed her name.
I hope your summer is going well. I’ll be starting my third year as a Freshman English teacher this year. My question, however, has more to do with my students than content area. I have a few students who will be repeating my class this year because they did not turn in work. I was wondering if you had any advice about how to motivate these kids. I know a few of them have things in their personal lives that they are having trouble with. Do you know a way to help them focus on school when they are in the classroom?
Thank you. I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.
Thanks for reaching out to me. Alas, there is no one-size-fits-all fix for this situation, but I know that when I emotionally pour into kids who are struggling, they tend to do more work for me. When I’m in that position, I’ll have a sit-down with each student individually in the first week of school (maybe you can get permission to pull the kids out of a different class for 15 minutes or so during your prep period?) and have a heart-to-heart. Something about the class didn’t work for them the first time around. You’ll need to work with each kid to know what’s going on and then make accommodations accordingly.
More and more, I’ve grown to doubt the value of a lot of the homework I see my colleagues assign. Sure, kids need to read all kinds of books all the time (SSR = an example of good HW), but I’ve cut a lot of the handout-type work and out-of-class projects that I used to give kids to complete on their own. Take a look back over last year’s grade book and see if there’s a trend in the types of work those particular students didn’t complete – projects, nightly grammar work, etc. Then, I’d figure out how to get that work completed in class – maybe not just for them, but for all of your kids.
As an example, I now assign almost all of our major essays to be written in class. A few years back, I had too many cases of plagiarism (internet, tutors, overly involved parents) that I just had to say, “No more!” Essays are now done with me in class; yes, that takes more of our class time, but I now have a much better understanding of my students’ abilities and they benefit from less homework and time-crunch stress. You might want to consider a similar approach. The more work they do with us in class, the better.
Again, I don’t have a quick or easy answer. I do know, though, that the fact that you’re thinking about your kiddos in July is evidence that you’re going to do right by them. They are lucky to have you – even if they don’t love English class.
Hope this helps. I’m here when you need me!
Okay, teacher friends, let’s hive mind some advice for Johanna. How do YOU help the kid who has to repeat your class? Leave a reply below!