Monday, March 15, 2010

Accountability and ESL students

Big day - do or die day. All my students today needed to hand in their "School of the Future" assignment. As my school is being torn down and replaced with a new school in only 2 years time, I thought it would be a fun assignment to draw the new school in Sketchup, and to include a 1 page write up about it. I told them that they could have the weekend if I got both write up and sketch in by Monday at the start of class. They wanted to be treated as adults so I told them there would be a penalty for late work.

One student didn't take his deadline seriously. He didn't do a write up, though he was capable of doing so. He tried to laugh it off, but I insisted that this was a required element. When I said I needed to phone his parents, he gave me the number, but told me that this would not be worth my while as they don't speak english.

I was left with no choice. I showed him our school's "I" letter - a letter we send home to students in danger of failing a course for incomplete work. I filled it out in under 2 minutes for him. I then showed him Google Translate. I translated the letter into the language his parents spoke, had him sign it, I signed it, and circled the date. When I asked him to read what it said and describe it in English, his jaw dropped, and he said "ooooh this says I am not doing well in the course, and I am going to get a bad grade!" I wonder if he was so aghast because I found a way to contact his parents, or if for the first time he understood in his own language what was happening to his grades.

I expect the form back tomorrow, along with his missing assignment.

If I had to wait for a translator to be available, and for the parents to be available, it could take days, or perhaps a week for everyone's schedule to jive. In order for this student to feel the immediate effects of his poor choice, I needed a way to inform his parents immediately; this is necessary for the student to learn from his poor choices.


spaguyswife said...

As you know accountability has always been the one struggle we've had with you know who! It makes such a huge difference when you find a way for them to "get it". Nicely done, I'm sure this student will think twice before putting off another assignment.

Brian Kuhn said...

Hey James - great assignment. I'd love you and your students to visit these posts of mine about school design and contribute your/their ideas.

What should secondary schools look like in the future?

Schools of the Future

I'd be interested in reading some of their work on this assignment. Maybe you could post it somewhere?