I dreaded this moment for more than a week. An angry parent wanted to meet about her teenage son’s grade on a project. On the one hand, I felt confident that I had sufficiently laid out expectations and parts of the assignment on our course in Schoology. On the other hand, this was an angry parent, and they don’t always listen to reason. I had insisted that the son be present for our meeting, so that we all could sit down and be on the same page.
If you haven’t read earlier posts of mine, I teach College Prep and General English to Sophomores. I have been experimenting this year on flipping my classroom, which is where you put any direct instruction online for students to complete at home and use class time to work one-on-one to apply any direct instruction. Flipping has allowed me to add a whole new dimension to my teaching. For example, earlier in the year I assigned my CP students a variety of tasks and let them decide which they wanted to work on. I had them create goal sheets to decide what task, if any, they wanted to work on during the class. Then they self analyzed to determine if they were successful in their goals.
For the next few weeks and up into exams, we are reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Rather than allow for lots of student choice in activity, I am asking them to read and annotate the book, write some higher order thinking questions about the chapters they’ve read, and discuss with others in the class. But this was not what the parent was angry about.
As a precursor to reading the book, we learned a little bit about trial procedures and had a fairytale trial. I had posted on our schoology course some deadlines and expectations for the project. We had our trial. Everything seemed ducky. But one student did not fully complete the individual portion of the assignment and turned in one part of the group assignment late. This was the assignment she wanted to discuss.
I started the conference with asking the son to get out the papers he had gotten back from his project. As he was going to his locker to get his folder, I showed the parents our schoology site. I explained how they could find the assignments that were currently due, as well as the assignments that were due in the past. The parents could plainly see that we had myriad assignments throughout this month, all with clear deadlines.
I explained that it is my policy to allow students time in class to work on projects like this and that I always circulate around the room, asking students if they need help and working one on one with them. He has rarely asked me for help, so I rarely help him. The clearly delineated project expectations and deadlines, along with the student’s assertion that yes, I really did go around and help others, ended the parent’s argument that her son didn’t understand what he was supposed to do. Although he might not have understood, neither did he ask for help. They left happy that I was preparing their son for the online forums of colleges and universities, in some small part.
Now the ball is in his court. He knows he can ask questions and get help. Will he? Only time will tell.