Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Letter to my (Select Few) Students

I wrote an email to a few of my juniors. My expectations for them and their work habits are going up by the day, and I fully expect them to rise to the occasion. I started a "weekend homework assignment" thing for Q4, where every weekend I will assign them an extra homework assignment that takes them at least 1 hour to complete. These assignments have to do with old topics, so it's extra taxing because they have to struggle to remember details of what we did in Q1, and to read the textbook and whatnot in order to jog their memory. This is an effort to get them to be more college-ready, in terms of habits if not in terms of content. On Sundays, they have to send me questions by 10am, and I promise to then respond promptly. On Mondays, I collect and grade their "weekend assignment" based on 2 categories -- "weekend effort" (Check, Check plus, Check minus) and also accuracy (Check, check plus, check minus), and I circle and carefully annotate every problem that they missed. Took me a long time to do it this week -- 3 hours for about 10 kids' assignments. I'm hoping I'll have the perseverence to last through all of Q4 this way. --Anyway, they then get to take the assignments I've graded/returned, and to correct their errors and to resubmit by Friday for a better grade.

Anyway, here's an email I wrote to my few kids who failed to turn in the first weekend assignment. Not surprisingly, despite my many reminders they came back with various excuses on Monday.
Dear students,

I am writing because either you did not turn in a weekend assignment on Monday or you turned in one of very poor quality that I could not really begin to grade it.

I would like you to seriously consider making up this assignment, and doing it to the best of your ability (including asking for lots of help). I make no apology that it's going to take you well over an hour, if you're doing it right. But, it'll give you the opportunity to get detailed feedback on Ch. 1 material that will be on the final exam. Believe me, these opportunities will come and go every week, and you will regret in June that you weren't all along asking me questions about these past topics throughout Q4 so that you could understand them piecewise.

So, if you do turn them in by Friday, as I've previously stated you still will have a chance to receive some partial credit for the assignment, provided that you've asked for appropriate help and your answers are actually accurate, with sufficient work shown. If you do not turn them in by Friday, I don't see any reason why you wouldn't turn them in next week just to get the written feedback. I'm hoping/expecting you guys to pick up the slack. Even missing one of these review assignments, in my eyes, is really not acceptable, considering that you will have had all week to make them up. It's not about the grade; it's about your learning and your study habits and you being college-bound students. So, today's Tuesday and that means you've got 3 more days. Make the right choices. Show me and yourself that you're doing whatever it takes to pass -- and excel -- in the class, like you will do for every class between now and the end of college, even if you think it's a lot of work (and it is -- it gets harder from here, I promise, for every class and every year ahead).

Looking forward to you being responsible,
Ms. Yang

Maybe the email will have no effect, but I refuse to let the kids think that this is just some other missed assignment, because it's so NOT. To me, it's about much more than that. Like I said in the email, it's about them showing the right mindset for being college-bound students.


  1. I wish your students knew what a HUGE gift you are giving them by providing that level of detailed feedback on the assignment, as well by your giving up part of your Sunday to be their personal "phone a friend" expert. What's been the feedback from the students who are doing the weekend work?

    Paul Hawking
    The Challenge of Teaching Math
    Latest post:
    Why you need a robot in the classroom

  2. "Looking forward to you being responsible,
    Ms. Yang"

    This set me off into a fit of giggles! You are going to make an awesome mother someday, Ms. Yang. :)

  3. @Paul If only kids would bother phoning me with questions! The kids who did the weekend work want me to assign it on Thursdays so that they can work on it before the weekend. Otherwise it's too soon to tell what the effects are. I won't tell them till I get a chance to do this, but I plan on putting some of that material as extra credit on an upcoming assessment soon, to reward the kids who are doing their part and to wag fingers at those who aren't doing it.

    @Amy If I thought it'd be helpful, I'd send "yelling" emails daily. :) I think I get that from my Asian mom, who still yells every time I call. :) "YOU DIDN'T TELL ME [BLAH BLAH BLAH]. YOUR MOM IS ALWAYS THE LAST TO HEAR ABOUT [BLAH BLAH]. BAD DAUGHTER!!!"