In this series of articles about surviving the winter and especially that first month back in January, we focus primarily on assessment changes, accepting that changes in classroom culture are hard to effectuate in mid-year, but arguing that if we change how the kids are being graded, it will at least get their attention.
It’s not the beginning of the academic year, but it is the beginning of a year. Hey, we’ll take whatever we can get – something new, a kind of new start in the middle of the year…. This “something new” will necessarily have to happen around the way you assess them between now and June.
So for about seven years now I have been a mad dog on the use of what we used to call here the Interpersonal Skills Rubric (jGR) and of the idea that I can get the most attention from unruly kids by basing most (65%) of my assessment of them on the Interpersonal Skill ((ISR) of the Three Modes of Communication.
Sometimes kids or parents object to my tightening the screws on them in mid year by doubling down on my use of the Interpersonal Skills Rubric. This always happens because earlier in the year I have allowed them to “play” me for a grade without properly holding them to the rubric. No one enforces the ISR/jGR properly early on in the year and so they pay now with unruly classes, so don’t feel too bad. It happens to most of us. Why people don’t use jGR properly early on in the year – or the later version of it as ISR found in ANATTY and ANATS – is beyond me.
Why do some of us lack the personal power to hold kids to a standard from the beginning of the year? To our students who complain about our new policy and to our suddenly holding them to the 65% deal here in January, I tell them that I have chosen now in the second part of the year to better align their observable non-verbal behavior in my class with the standards, and I apologize for not doing a better job of grading them according to the standards before.
I always mention the standards when I talk to my students about grades. I mention the Three Modes of Communication and the term “observable non-verbal behavior” also when I talk to a parent after tightening the screws on their kids’ showing up for class as real human beings. I am ready for those conversations with terms like standards/research/ACTFL, etc.
I announce the change in class on the first day back after the break, taking an entire class period if necessary to make sure that my students know why I am enforcing jGR/ISR more intently now. I review the three modes with the hand gestures, of course, as described elsewhere here and in recent books.
Look. If you don’t hold them accountable in the way described in so many books and also here throughout so many years, then they will continue to play you. So look at this time of year as a kind of second chance. There are many classroom management plans in all the books, but perhaps the best is found as Plans A-E in A Natural Approach to the Year.