Priorities and End of the School Year

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Another school year has come to an end. It was a pretty great end if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, not every one of my students would agree on that which makes me sad, but more on that later.

Recently, through Nerd Fitness and through Fitness Blender I read/heard two amazingly simple and obvious phrases that set off light bulbs in my head that apply to teaching and to my outside life. The first one was about priorities and how what we say our priorities are versus what priorities we actually work towards are not always the same. The second is the fact that if we want to improve something about ourselves, we are the ones who have to do the work.

Priorities

What would you say your priorities are? What are your big goals that you have in your life that you want to accomplish? What’s your “raison d’être”? For me, it’s education, being healthy, my family, theatre, my friends, not specifically in that order.

Now think back on the last few weeks or even the last month or so and sit down and actually calculate where you spend the majority of your time and money (other than sleeping for time and necessary bills for money) and then you see what you have made actual priorities in your life. Do they look the same as your first list? Great. If not, maybe make some changes.

For me, most of my money goes to bills and my classroom which is fine. I spend too much time on the internet so I cut back a bit. Of course there are times when my priorities shift, like the last month has been crazy with stage managing an awesome show and then having the end of the year rush with report cards and everything. But it was an interesting exercise to see where I actually spend the majority of my time and money and whether or not they line up with what I perceive are my priorities.

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I had my students do something similar just with where they spend their time and far too many have their priorities centered around video games and being consumers (rather than creators) on the internet. I hope that some of them are able to take that new self awareness and make the choice to make some changes. But that’s the hard part.

No one will do it for you

This one was a HUGE light bulb moment for me while I was working out one day and it really shouldn’t have been but it was. I’ve been working on strength training but I was always holding back a little because I didn’t want to push myself too hard and then not be able to do the next exercise. I didn’t do burn-out rounds or extra reps or up my weight even when it was relatively easy.

It was like I was waiting for someone to come along and tell me do more, or push me to try harder rather than pushing myself. But of course, if I want to do better, I’m the one that needs to tell myself to do more, no one will do it for me.

This turned into a lesson in my classroom where I told my students that no one was going to learn the material for them. I can give them the tools and the space and some inspiration and motivation, but I can’t actually learn it for them. Neither can their parents or their friends. I saw some realizations cross faces which was great.

But not all of them got it. There’s one student who really didn’t get it in particular. We’ll call him Sam. He’s a great student who generally did well but often rushed through his work and didn’t do as well as I knew he could. There were some focus issues and other things happening at home but he genuinely wanted to do well but I feel like I failed to get the message of what learning is when it came to him.

I had all my students pass in one writing piece per month while we were in the English term. I reminded Sam of his May writing piece and he whipped off a single page story in about ten minutes, lacking periods, capitals all over the place, no paragraphs, very little use of interesting words. I marked it and gave it back with an approaching grade level mark.

Sam was brought in to my classroom after school by the VP in tears because he didn’t want to go home with a paper with a low mark. We sat and talked about why he got the mark he did and that if he wanted to, he could use that paper as a rough draft, make some edits, and pass in a better paper. Eventually he agreed. An hour later, just as I was about to leave, he came running in with a new paper (he hadn’t taken the rough draft or marking sheet home) that he had again written very quickly. I couldn’t give him a higher mark. In class the next day I sat him down while other students were working independently and went through the checklist carefully with him and explained what a good grade 5 piece should have.

Same day I also gave back a re-test he had written for math. He only managed to get one point higher than the first one and was upset about that.

“Sam, what did you do between the first test and the re-test?”

“What do you mean?”

“Did you go over the first test and look at the mistakes you made and figure out how to fix them?”

“No, you didn’t tell me to do that. And it’s a different test so what would be the point?”

Sigh

Should be obvious but I guess not always to a ten year old.

He eventually re-wrote his writing piece again, this time taking more time and adding more of the details and punctuation that I had asked for. It was finally something that was an at grade level piece.

But what amazed me was that this student who is bright and generally “does well at school” hadn’t figured out that just wanting to “do better” isn’t going to change your mark. Trying again without learning from what you did wrong in the first place means you’re just going to keep repeating the same mistakes over again.

Well, time to work on some of my priorities and figure out my workout plan for this summer! Happy summering!

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