Recently a teacher, Amelia, asked for help in dealing with a student who denies using Google translator while being unable to explain what she wrote and how she came up with the tenses that hadn’t been taught yet. Unfortunately, the teacher asked her, which is the wrong approach, in my experience, and I’ll explain a better approach later on. For now this is the reality and here is the dialogue for sharing with the parents.
“I really like your daughter and believe in her having a bright future. She recently chose to use Google Translator on an assignment. This is a common mistake that I see every year. Usually I talk about the mistake with the student who apologizes and promises not to do it again. But this time (insert name) just can’t bear to admit her mistake. This worries me because if she applies to a college that use the common app, teachers will be asked to rate her on her honesty, and this could prevent her from getting a glowing teacher evaluation. It also worries me because in my experience (x number of years times X number of students per year) of over 3000 students, the students who can’t admit a mistake, often get into bigger problems because they are afraid to admit a mistake.
I know of one student who couldn’t admit she was with a driver who had been drinking and got into the car that ended up in a serious accident. Her parents always told her to call, but she really didn’t have the experience of surviving admitting a bad choice and getting over to the other side with her parents. I’d hate to see this happen to her. I am worried about her and I am hoping with this conversation that you are able to help her to get past this. because she really has so much going for her. Can you help her with this?”
I have many versions of this dialogue and more in my book, Teacher Dialogues. It also includes advice on how to start the conversation. Rather than asking the student, tell the student in a private moment. “You know how you are one of my favorite students? Well I can tell that you must have been really pressed for time to not trust your language skills and just go with a Google translator or a friend. Can you help me to understand what was going on that guided your decision? Ok, I understand. Can you just write it on the paper so that I can remember while I get back to the class?”
Once they explain what happened, I take the paper and then tell them that X reason (that they gave) is something they have to tell their parents. I give them 24 or 48 hours to figure out who and how to tell and ask for an email or note from their parent.
Most students blanche at this, yet time after time, they later feel so much better that they told their parents. Carrying around deceit does hurt a lot of them. They even counsel other students to tell their parents and get it over – after they stop being mad it feels so much better.
Good luck Amelia, with helping this family to address the issue of sharing disappointing choices. It is why we teach students first, curriculum a close second.
Michael Linsin blogged about “Why Staying Late After School Is A Mistake” and many teachers are embracing it. It was shared one of my FB groups for teachers.
I replied that I believe that exchanging a few dollars for carefully selected activities from TeacherspayTeachers (TpT) helps many of us to balance excellent lesson planning with our other parts of our lives. While I am a small seller on TpT, I am a bigger customer, saving all kinds of time by using another teacher’s creativity in my classes.
I believe that TpT levels the playing field for inexperienced teachers to easily have experienced teachers’ class activities.
But, upon a second reading of Mr. Linsin’s blog, there is a “smug blaming the teacher” tone that needs to be addressed before teachers add further guilt onto their current guilt for working long hours.
In my opinion, Mr. Linsin puts down teachers by painting us with a broad brush of “First, most teachers prepare inefficiently. They get distracted. They meet with colleagues more than they need to. They visit and chat and don’t always get down to work. . . .Second, many teachers struggle with what, exactly, they need to plan and how to go about it. So they sit and ponder. They start and stop. They fill the time with busy work instead of productive work. They end up with lessons that are bloated and directionless and that students struggle to understand.”
This negativity is demeaning even though it may lead us to be better teachers if we buy his book.
Mr. Linsin doesn’t differentiate between his status as a veteran teacher with 26 years in the classroom and a new teacher.
He doesn’t differentiate between a Spanish teacher teaching one section of Spanish One five times a day and a Mandarin teacher teaching Mandarin 1, Mandarin 2, Mandarin 3, Mandarin 4 and Mandarin AP.
He doesn’t differentiate between a math teacher who uses scantrons to score tests and an English teacher with an unending stream of essays to grade.
He doesn’t distinguish between teaching the same subject year after year versus always having a new class to prep.
He doesn’t differentiate between working in a school district that provides updated curriculum support with technology and workbooks that students can write in/and or 1:1 versus a school district that hasn’t updated the language texts in 15 years and all worksheets must be run off by the teacher with no support from parent helpers or aides.
He doesn’t distinguish between preparing for a class of motivated students who can work independently and a huge class of wide abilities including many IEPs, 504s and undiagnosed emotional needs where you must script the class minute by minute or else the students will create mayhem during transitions and down time.
For these kinds of classes, investing time in your lessons keeps students engaged and avoids referrals, avoids talking to parents, avoid increasing discipline paper trails and relieves stress. Five minutes of class time can feel like an eternity when a boring lesson puts students off task.
At a time when I don’t recognize my country’s acceptance of selfishness, I still believe in the sanctity of creating a community.
If a students need legitimate help during my prep period, then they get it. If our school needs someone to arrange for career day for our students, I’ll pitch in and have to put in work on tomorrow’s lesson later that evening. If students applying to colleges need letters or recommendation, then I will take the time to meet with the students and write a thoughtful letter.
Because if I become a 8 – 3 teacher who grades papers, plans lessons, responds to parents, inputs grades, updates IEPs, during one 45 minutes slot each day, then I probably deserve to be replaced with distance learning and an aide in the classroom as many of my colleagues are being “replaced” with Rosetta Stone.
Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s take a good look at where we do waste time and make better choices. But let’s not support the convenient belief that schools are just businesses, teachers just work 8 – 3 and have summers off.
We are better than that.
Our students deserve better, and our country’s future is counting on us to be better.
Venezuela is spiraling out of control.
Good-hearted people around the world are wringing their hands and posting videos on Facebook about the protests. (Below is the latest Google for protests in Venezuela.)
But if you want to do more than wring your hands, please read below.
Venezuela lacks jobs, food and medicines. I used to live there and heard of a friend’s son losing his teaching position because the school was closed for lack of funds. So last year I started to send work to him and four other Venezuelan families to help them survive. They were hardworking middle-class families slipping into poverty as prices soared and basic necessities became scarce.
They create and record songs, create graphics for my classroom, and create videos for classroom use in English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin and soon Latin.
If you want to help them, please purchase some of our Transition Videos, Spanish Birthday Song Video or the National Anthem Video packet on Teachers pay Teachers and the money will be forwarded to them.
Last month we made $200 on TpT and a retired teacher donated $200 and I added another $100 and sent $500 to a family that is trying to establish residency in Colombia because the wife was born there and has legal Colombian citizenship.
When I first started helping them, the wife was pregnant but there was no food to be purchased in their part of Venezuela and the pregnancy wasn’t thriving. With my help, she and her husband, one of the singers I employ, made it to Colombia where they could purchase food and the baby was born. Colombia has cracked down on naturalizing Venezuelans because the flood of immigrants is more than they can absorb.
The family has come down with pneumonia and our singer can’t be treated in Colombia because he is still awaiting his documents to be processed. The last time he tried to authenticate his documents he was refused. He left the building and another government official met him outside and offered to do it for a premium. The bribe deprived him of the extra money for the electrical bill so services were cut and he relies on the kindness of friends with internet service to communicate with me.
Another graphic artist designs flash cards, family tree, and other visuals that I use in my class and will soon put on TpT. She is pregnant and the money I send her goes for securing healthy food.
There are more stories behind these very talented people who just want to work and want to live without fear – fear of not being able to feed their families, fear of being assaulted in the streets as they try to buy staples, fear of being caught of up in the protests, fear of not providing basic medicines that we take for granted here in the United States.
Remember the starfish story about the boy who threw a star fish found on the beach back into the ocean so it could live and was told it was hopeless and unimportant because he couldn’t save them all? He replied it was important to the one he was helping. I can’t save a country but I can help these five families of struggling, educated, talented Venezuelans. They pray constantly for help and I believe that God answers prayers in the form of people acting as angels. Sometimes people acting as angels have helped me in my own hours of need. Sometimes I get to help them. You can, too! If you can use these videos to in your classroom or to help someone learn a language, then please purchase them. Answer their prayers for work and not charity. Thank you.