Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Group Work, and the Surprising Story of an Assistant Principal Who Supports a Teacher

Charlotte Danielson loves her some group work, and pays a whole lot of attention to how students are grouped. You can't just group kids. You need reasons for doing it, and you gosh darn better get those kids together for a good reason. I'm a simple guy, and I can't help but notice my classes are dominated by Chinese speakers. What I generally try to do is find enough people who don't speak Chinese to place at least one in every group, and then hope that there might be some motivation for them to speak English. Sometimes I can't even do that.

Of course there are other ways to group. I recall a group I was in back when I was picking up my Master's degree. We had a course in testing, and we were a group of four. There were three women and me. One woman designed the test, I wrote the report, and another typed it up on her Commodore 64 computer. I had never seen a word processor before and I was amazed she could type and edit. I had to have one of those things, and it wasn't too long before I got one.

Our fourth member? She did nothing. The group consensus was that was what she did best. And it worked out pretty well for us, as we all got As. Of course in our classes it isn't so easy. If some kid is sitting around doing nothing, it's entirely possible some high-minded supervisor could blame the teacher. You didn't motivate that kid. Your lesson wasn't stimulating enough. Your DO NOW didn't make the kids jump and down enough, and that's why the kid isn't participating. Who knows?

But I spoke to a supervisor the other day who had a different idea. A teacher had complained about a number of group members who didn't participate, and this supervisor had a solution---place them all in the same group. The teacher followed this advice, and it didn't sit well with the kids in the group. They knew they would either have to do something or fail. This was not good, since several of them were not all that keen on that whole attendance thing.

Mondays, for example, are hell to come in.  How can you do that after a whole weekend of relaxing? It's a shock to the system. Tuesdays are almost the same thing, especially if you hadn't come in on Monday. Wednesday is Hump Day! Thursday is almost Friday. And Friday, well, that's almost the weekend, and who the hell wants to sit in some boring classroom where you can't even check your phone on Friday?

Now not all kids cut every day. Let's say you're one of the ones who didn't, and you just hope to not do any work in your class. Let's further imagine that you were unceremoniously tossed into the group of lazy folk. Where does that leave him when the cutters, you know, notice it's one of those off days?

Well, in this case, it landed him in the office of the assistant principal, where he lamented loudly that his partner didn't bring the display board. The display board! How can anyone possibly give a presentation without it?

The assistant principal told him that was no problem. Show me the work you did, and I will assess that only.

And José was supposed to bring a report! He didn't bring it!

Show me the work you did, and I will assess that only.

And also, we had a poster! Kenya was supposed to bring a poster, and she didn't even show up!

Show me the work you did, and I will assess that only.

Well, I don't know. I helped, you know. We talked about a lot of stuff...

Show me the work you did, and I will assess that only. If you haven't got any work, I can't give you credit. I will have to give you a zero for the project.

But there was no work. Will the student get away with doing nothing in the next class? Maybe, but not in this one, and not with this teacher.
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