And so the Second Quarter Comes to an End

The second quarter ended on Friday, marking the halfway point of the school year. It feels like a lot longer and in some ways it’s amazing it flew by. There was the mad dash of students panicking and trying to cram late work or extra credit in this week, but with few exceptions they were turned away. The last three days of the week had students staying after school, diligently working to make the deadline.

Some begged me that the essay they spent the week writing would be including in their grade but it will really be their first third quarter grade. They had five class days to write a five paragraph analysis of Tim Burton’s cinematic techniques, summing up the unit, which we have been working on since November. I have graded half of the ones turned in and in most cases it is very clear they were not paying attention the last six weeks, took poor notes, and squandered the 225 minutes of class time where they could have worked and started the next quarter off with a bang.

Similarly, the juniors took every spare minute and then some to write their eight paragraph essay on the Founding Fathers and most missed steps clearly spelled out in the packet. One, who didn’t do it, said, “You know, this stuff is hard.” No kidding. But it was not that hard given nine days in the library to work on it.

I keep telling them I am holding them to higher standards than they appear to be used to and not many are striving to meet them. And that is one of my take aways from the first half year. The majority of my students don’t want to work hard. They raise their hands in complete helplessness, expecting me to spoon-feed them the answers. Thinking deep is not comfortable for them.  They won’t come in after school, they won’t do their homework assignments, and then goof off in class, expecting a Hail Mary assignment will be given so they can pass.

There is the estimable Thomas L. Friedman column today that addresses some of the above and links to a Washington Post story that had my peers nodding in sad agreement. This is not a phenomena limited to Owings Mills High School or even Baltimore County High Schools. Somewhere along the way, the parents (or society as a whole) have let the kids stray into devaluing their educations, wasting opportunities time and again.

Our school, like so many others, offer some amazing programs. Our robotics teams did incredibly well in a competition this weekend, while our wrestling program is envied around the state. We do have new courses and programs coming on line to appeal to a wider range of students so the lessons are there for those willing to make the effort. So far, I don’t see much in the way of drive or ambition from my freshman; an observation seen around the state.

As for me, I continue to work hard to plan the best lessons I can, feeling the growth. Over the last week, I did long-range planning for this new quarter, working with my fellow faculty, and am gaining more confidence in adapting the lessons to my students’ needs. I am tightening the planning which hopefully will tighten the discipline which I had hoped would be less of an issue by now. I am certainly putting in the hours each morning and afternoon and have spent a good portion of this holiday weekend grading papers and planning.

I do hope the next half year will be easier on us all. But there remain incredible demands all around. But I also am increasingly cognizant that I remain a role model of acceptable adult behavior, showing as much respect for my slacker students as for my hard workers; entering each class with a smile and a hope this will be the day they buckle down and make the effort.

The second half begins Wednesday and I remain hopeful things will steadily improve all around.

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