Finals follow-up…student reaction

The other day, I talked about the Final and what I was going to do.

I briefly explained what the final was going to be and even included a link to the website I used.

Now…let’s talk about the reaction of the students.

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, I did have a student ask me in the middle of the “final” why I couldn’t have just given a traditional final.

Yesterday was a different story.  

*Students that had struggled during the first day of exploration with this new concept weren’t struggling as much as did before.  They were even letting loose a little and seemed to enjoy it.

*Students that usually were labelled “not the best students” or “students that didn’t put enough effort into their work” or any other typical complaint of some teachers, were doing better than the traditionally “superb” students. Immediately I thought it was because this was out of the box thinking process that doesn’t always follow students that used to formulaic teaching and learning.

One student, who has struggled in every class she takes, was flying high because she was getting the answers despite her partner being one of those “good” student.  The joy I saw on her face when her thought process or answers were proven right was worth everything!

*Students that were burnt out on school?…HAD FUN!

*Students that usually stayed in the background because they didn’t always feel connected to their peers and/or had interests that didn’t always match their peers, found ways to contribute.  My favorite part of the final for these students usually came when their group was faced with the Minesweeper challenge.  If they were familiar with the game, they aced it right away and helped their group moved forward.  Even if they weren’t familiar, they usually figured out what to do first, which earned them the same result.

So…what happened today? 

Today was an interesting day:)

Today, we arrived at school to find our power out and not knowing if we would be able to get the planned activities done, whether we would hold school the entire day or send them home.  Eventually, it was decided to keep going with school even without power.

The interesting part about holding school when there is no power is what to do with the students that showed up.  See…today was the day the 9th graders went to our local amusement park about an hour after school started leaving the 7th and 8th graders to have shortened class periods so they could have a field day in the later portion of the day.  We already had much fewer students but now we had the added scenario of no power.

This meant, whatever technological idea a teacher might have had, was out the door.  I felt as though I couldn’t just have the kids sit around but I also didn’t want to just put them to work cleaning my classroom.  In the end?  A little of both.  Each class was given a small task to help with end of year preparations.  Once we got to fourth period, I had a few more students and they wanted to do more.  So, together, we got to work on a task I had recently found out about and wasn’t really looking forward to.

What’s the point of this train of thought?

Well, I found it interesting that the students I worked side by side with over the next few hours (many stayed to help rather than go onto their other classes) asked questions and made comments about the final.

I had one student remark over and over again how she really liked our final. This is a good student.  She always puts in the effort she needs to succeed and she seems to do well in all of her classes but I wouldn’t say she was at the top of her class, not that that is really all that important, but she said that the final gave her a chance to use her music skills in a different way.

I know I’ve already said this but “this was everything”.  It was everything I had hoped for.  It was everything I had planned to happen but was unsure if it would.

I even had a student that had been absent for the final, show up just after the power came on so we put her to work on it.  I got her started but since the power was on, I needed to get our auditorium set up for a slide show so I asked one student to supervise her and come get me if there were questions.

This was a student who, again was a good student but not one that some teachers would call great.  The student I asked to assist her was one I knew wouldn’t just give her the answers but would actually help if there was a problem.  Despite not having the opportunity to work with her peers in the days previous, she BREEZED RIGHT THROUGH IT!  She didn’t fly through it but she did it well and rather quickly.  I was asked a couple of times to answer some questions but she took my assistance well and figured it out.

It was pretty cool to peek in and see her progress.

And…she loved the tasks!

Success happened here.  I didn’t get a chance to get student feedback on what they would do differently but I am planning on doing that next year.  It will be fun to see how the Breakouts can be used for different purposes and which purpose fits best for my students.

How do we finish strong?

How do we finish strong when we are exhausted and overwhelmed? 

I took a break from blog writing right after our Final Concert for a couple of reasons.

One, I was simply exhausted after writing every day while keeping up with my students and preparing for our end of year concert.  I give so much to the experience that I always feel the thrill of the ride but also the let down after it’s all over.  The added stress of deciding to write every day just added to that feeling.

Two, the HUGE decision I had made previously, mentioned in another blog post, had to be reevaluated and eventually changed because of circumstances that were out of my control.  This left me feeling completely and totally overwhelmed.

So…I took a break.

I knew this could be a problem, but I needed it.  I thought it would only be a day or two.  It clearly turned into this lengthy period of time… 1 1/2 weeks! YIKES!

At first, the break was welcomed and almost a relief.  Then, it seemed to become almost a demand that I not write.  But that also led to me not wanting to prepare lessons for my students.  I still had two weeks left of school!  I couldn’t afford to let that happen.

So…how to do you finish strong when you don’t want to do anything?  When you just need to relax and forget everything so you can regenerate?

Well, I don’t know about you, but for me it’s comes back to my upbringing.  It means “pulling up your bootstraps” and persevering . It means taking each day as it comes and just focusing on doing your best.  Your best for yourself, for your family and if you are a teacher like me, for your students.

I made it through the last 1-1/2 weeks by putting my focus on what I could do rather than what I had no control over.  I focused on having fun with my students, preparing them for the “final” that takes place tomorrow, and just enjoying my time with my own children.

One of “having fun” moments with my students was playing a musical game based on “telephone” using rhythms.  It is both frustrating and hilarious for all participants.

One of the “having fun” moments with my own children was going on a hike today.  We enjoyed the short but steep hike, the view at the top, and the quick descent followed by some good food. It was very restful and rejuvenating in a kind of strange way.

The preparation for the final was enjoyable for me albeit not so much for my students.  However, they will see the benefits tomorrow. So will you if you read tomorrow’s post:)