What's Happening in Character?

The Power of Revisions, Part II

Posted by Rebecca Sipos on Mon, Aug 15, 2011 @ 17:08 PM

by Mark Schumacker, Beavercreek Schools teacher

As most teachers do, I always look at what I am doing and analyze the success of my work.  I want to make sure I am doing the best I can and if I am not, I want to figure out what can I do to improve my product.  The work ethic, drive, passion, effort, and academic achievement of my students are the means to my analysis.  The revision policy, as well as our goal system, has allowed many of my students to achieve success more aligned with their actual ability (and beyond in some cases).  This has been a true joy to personally witness.

An area I have struggled with since my first year teaching, is motivating the kids that seem to not care.  Every year I have a group of kids who refuse to work for me, accept failure, and seem rather apathetic towards turning this vicious cycle around.  And every year I bust my tail trying to motivate these kids.  I contact their parents, I offer help, I give second and third chances, but by the second semester I am ready to give up.  Have you been here before?  Can you relate?  We don't want to give up, but we feel as if we have given so much and received little effort in return.  It is frustrating.  We begin to worry about the other 110 kids in the classroom who ARE willing to work.  Have we now neglected them?

I have tried everything!  Have you ever said that?  Did you ever think that?  For a moment, reflect and consider this thought:  This is the same feeling the parents of these kids probably feel, though my guess is much more desperately.  Maybe these kids feel the same way.  My guess is the kids feel as if they can't do the work, regardless of their effort.  Failure is much easier to deal with when it is self-inflicted.  When you choose to fail, you have some control.  I can't imagine the level of frustration the kids feel from trying their best and not seeing much success.  Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. ~ Thomas Edison

What can we do about this?  How can we stop the cycle?  I think I have stumbled upon a solution, though it does take some work and a lot of perseverance and patience.

Up until this year, I have always made revisions an option.  I wanted the kids to make the personal choice to better their work.  I wanted this choice to have intrinsic value to the kids.  I have discovered that the kids who tend to be my higher level thinkers usually revise most of their work with little prompting from me.  The kids, who would most benefit from the revision policy, typically avoid revising their work.  I decided that I needed to intervene.

What did I do?  I used an idea I heard from Matt Davidson this past October and applied it to my classes.  The idea I secured is called “F or D and You See Me”.  The premise of this idea is that I will no longer accept F’s and D’s from any of my students.  The kids no longer have the choice to revise assignments of this quality.

F or D and You See Me:

  • If you earn a D or an F on any assignment, you have five days to revise it at your pace.
  • After the 5th day, you will be invited to join me for lunch to revise said assignment(s).
  • You will be asked for the revision the following day; if you still don’t have it revised you will join me for lunch again.
  • We continue this process until the assignment has been revised to a C or better quality.  The student still receives the grade change in the grade book (at this point).
  • If the assignment was an incomplete, I will simply check it off in my grade book once it is revised to a C or better quality, though the grade will remain a zero.  The understanding of the material is the goal - not the actual grade.
  • Once we come to the end of the chapter, revisions can no longer be submitted for grade changes.  Students that still have D or F papers must still revise their work though.  The only change is that I will enter a check in my grade book once the revision is to a C or better quality.

This new process is a true testament of perseverance and endurance.  Many of my kids didn't really think I would go through with this process.  I did.  I do.  I will.  I have made laminated passes for the kids to help reduce my time involvement in this process.  I hand out the passes before lunch each day.  If the said students have the revisions prior to lunch, they can turn them in to me and return the pass.  Is this a lot of work?  You bet it is!  Has it made a difference?  Absolutely!  The vast majority of my students figured out that I won’t quit.  My hope is that my students will learn how to “not quit”.  Most of my kids now revise the D and F papers prior to the 5th day.  I do still have a few that fight me on this, though my team and I are trying to come up with new strategies with them.  It is an ongoing effort!

**  Mark will be speaking at the 18th National Forum on Character Education to be held October 19-22 in San Francisco.  Register now at www.character.org and make sure you get to hear him!

Topics: character education in curriculum, character education in high school