Heather Frackiewicz

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26 thoughts on “Heather Frackiewicz”

  1. Heather,
    I think that all of us can relate to what you describe. I imagine you will hear from much of the “family” here.
    Like you I have the kid who is just so bright and funny in class and obviously is acquiring the language yet doesn’t turn in most work, and is happy with a C. I have to say I have been lucky to have very few D’s and F’s this year (knock on wood, it isn’t over yet!) and the administrator who observes me has asked me to share with my dept. what I am doing right!?
    I think maybe a factor might be that I have been using a formula that I originally got from Donna Tatum-Johns. My grading system breaks down like this; 50% quizzes and exams 25% classwork and homework (which I rarely give) and 25% participation (based subjectively on my observation of what they bring to the class!) (FYI, I begin each quarter giving all students a 70/100 for participation. They can go up, down, or just stay there from that point on.) I get great results from exams since they are based on readings and stories that almost everyone seems to have “gotten”. I get weakest results from homework. Even when that homework is to take this story (written in French or Spanish) home and read it to your parent/s. Even some of my best students don’t always get things done on time (they work, do sports, have to take care of things at home, or are lazy!) I think my class is good for them though because it doesn’t add too much stress to what they already have in their lives.
    So I guess what I am trying to say is that with the homework and classwork being only 25% of the grade they can get a decent grade by just being there in class. I allow them to turn things in late but do give better grades to those on time to honor kids who are learning about having some work ethic. If doing it has value I accept it late for less. Hopefully assignments do have value! But I think giving less value to late work than work that’s on time says “I’m understanding, but getting work done on time is a valuable skill”.
    I work with kids in a rural school district. There is a high percentage of kids who qualify for free or reduced lunches, etc. We get less than overwhelming support from parents. But my kids are great! They are sometimes lazy, sometimes tired, sometimes disengaged, sometimes bored (sometimes blond cheerleaders are snotty!). We have to keep asking them to raise those heads and hope they will succeed.
    I have to say that from an old fart perspective I think that their addiction to cell phones (I call it their “binky”) i-pods, and for some video games has not added value to their lives and has made them less willing to engage with the world or something?
    Hope this helps or sparks an idea for you.

  2. Television, video games, ipods, cell phones, internet… the technology deprives people of real social interaction and too often we then live in a ‘virtual’ world. The kids become addicted to this fake world! Bombarded with images, it works hand/eye coordination but the brain doesn’t need to think. It’s like a drug for too many children who can forget to eat and sleep! They become nervous and short tempered. However, the real world requires interaction, work, reflection and concentration, something that children would then tend to reject.
    I feel that students can be present in class and hear us but it doesn’t mean they are really listening. My successful students are the ones that really listen! The level of the student becomes irrevelant as input is accessible to everyone but only if they listen actively. For some even that effort is too much.
    As teachers we can try to get them involved, but we can’t provide the virtual reality that they are accustomed to and desire… some students expect me to entertain them and while we can have fun, I can’t live up to their expectation of a techno fix!

  3. You are so right about the electronics! I would say about half of my classes would sit and text all hour or play games or listen to music if I gave them the option. I’ve had to be a real bitch about taking away their devices, but eventually they’ve gotten the hint. My own kids are really starting to go overboard on the electronics and we’re having to nip that in the bud – they’re 11, but they already want to spend time on youtube, etc., playing Wii and watching the games on tv.
    One thing I can’t stand is the assumption that it’s fine to just have google translate your work for you rather than do any work yourself. On the few writing assignments I’ve done, I’ve seen that many of them would prefer to work at home or in the lab – because then they have access to the translators. Or they want to use their phones on the assignment. I would be fine with it if they were looking up single words, but they’re not. They somehow have come to believe that so long as they turn in an assignment in French, they’ve done what I’ve asked them to do. I’ve given them back their work and told them that since Google did the work, Google gets the points – and if they’d like to rewrite it themselves, that would be great. They look at me like I’m crazy. What – actually do work YOURSELF? Using your OWN brain? Why bother, when you can just type it in and get the translation done for you!
    I’m going to have to be absolutely ruthless this coming year. I’m going to tell them that if they use a translator – and I will know, as I always do – that they will get a zero, and the only way to make it up is to come in for KKIS (after school) and rewrite the assignment in front of me, with no phone, no computer…just a paper dictionary if they want it.
    I get one lab day per week. I use it to do things like practice vocabulary (quizlet) or verbs (conjuguemos – I know verb conjugations aren’t big in TPRS, but my students have told me it helps them more than anything else, so we do that). I’ve had them do projects in the lab (usually cultural, making a travel brochure, researching a famous French person, etc) and also doing tasks using the language on native-speaker sites (finding an apartment, planning a meal and going grocery shopping, etc). I’m reconsidering using it next year, I think once per week is too much when the kids are already so electronically wired 24/7. It used to be something they enjoyed, it was a novelty and most of them used it the way it was meant to be used. But now they want to rush through the assignment and then check their e-mail, play games, watch videos, etc. Sure, I get the work turned in. But I know they don’t really care, they just view it as a hoop to be jumped through in order to get access to the computer for what they view as more important (facebook and the like). I’m thinking it may even be something I can use as a reward for working hard all week – if they do what I need them to do Monday -Thursday, we’ll do lab on Friday. If not, we’ll spend more time on what should have been done that week. And if I see that the lab time is not being used wisely, we won’t use the lab next week.

  4. How about using the lab as PAT time? The lab should be able to block access for students to sites like youtube, dailymotion, etc and facebook. Computers can also track which sites each individual student accesses.
    I’ve had to curtail the time my kids (7 and 10) spend playing electronic games, the nintendo ds being the worst. After playing my 2 kids fight, are impatient, and can even hit one another. I or my husband now hand out and take back the consoles to control play time and to prevent late night under the cover playing. They literally go into withdrawal if denied playing for 2 days straight! They fight even more, can’t find anything else to do, complain and literally pace the floor frantically… 2-3 days later, they can play together calmy. I think this is probably destroying our youth.
    BTW, the French had a report on tv last year about how cell phones are preventing social interaction (people text while waiting instead of talking to each other for ex.) and the French aren’t gung-ho the language code used for texting either! @+

  5. That’s what I was thinking – PAT time.
    I use electronics as much as the next person – I run a web design business, so I’m always on the computer. But I rarely text, and I wouldn’t dream of texting or e-mailing friends when I should be teaching!
    That’s something I’ve seen happen quite a bit, not just among teens. The idea that you should focus on the person/people you’re with at the moment seems to be passé. It drives me bonkers, and it’s not just students doing this. Some of the teachers who eat lunch with me are the same way. They’ll spend the time texting someone who isn’t there rather than interacting with the people who are. I wonder – why bother coming to eat with us if we aren’t entertaining enough for you to give us your attention? So for a kid to be expected to sit in class and not be in constant contact with their buddies/girlfriend/mom/boyfriend just seems to be too much to ask.
    It’s not all bad, though. I get the kids’ cell numbers at the beginning of the year. If they have trouble getting to class on time – or coming to class at all – I’ve been known to give them a call to ask where they are. I’ll text them to RUN FASTER if they’re not in class but I know they’re on campus. And sometime, technology is their undoing. I have many students and former students on my facebook friends list. One missed the speaking final on Friday. And then he posted around noon that he ‘just got out of the theater, IronMan 2 was a blast!’ Hmmm…so that means that during my class and my final exam, he was at the theater. Sorry, no make up for that one. You can’t even begin to tell me that was an excused, unavoidable absence. Whoops.

  6. Wow, what a string of posts…
    First, I’d just like to say thanks to Heather for sharing her situation so openly. I can relate to your questions and concerns very much. And Ben, thanks for sharing your response.
    And secondly, I’d like to suggest a different perspective on the technology situation… I think that if we as teachers fight this technology, we are going to lose this battle. I think we have to embrace the change and choose to steer the change much as we can.
    Ben said, “All the great free access to information now, something recent in our society, has fundamentally changed the role of teacher from source of information to facilitator of contact with that information.”
    I couldn’t agree more. If students are able to produce quality foreign language writing using a translator, then why are we teaching them how to write in the foreign language? My students are not so successful with translation software. At least at this point, when they translate something in Google Translator it says something like the Spanish equivalent of “Buenos Aires do not know very well.” It would be very easy for me to take points away for this kind of work, regardless of whether or not they used a translator, I’m not worried about it. The students are going to have translation technology, and it will be useful to them if they use languages in their future careers. We should teach them to use it effectively.
    Ben went on to say, “Except in languages. You can’t learn a language from the internet – it is a human thing.”
    I’m not convinced that this will be the case for the next thirty years. I’m in my first year of teaching, and when I think about how far technology has come in the last 15… I am hesitant to predict what kids won’t be able to learn through computers before I am ready to retire. I think it is possible that kids in the future learn languages through video games, as much as I may hate to say it.
    With this in mind, I think we have to see ourselves as facilitators of information as Ben said. Facilitators of technology. Personally, I think that if kids are turning to translation software to translate their writing assignments that they have written in English, then we are asking them for output too early anyway. But if we are going to do that, and they can produce quality language by using translators, why not give them longer, more frequent assignments and let them become masters of the technology? And what a great way for them to accurately create stories to use in class! But I don’t think translation technology has gotten there yet, and it certainly can’t enable them to communicate the language when it is spoken to them. And that should be our focus anyway, right?
    If I were an English teacher, would I ever ask students to type up a paper on a computer and turn off spell check? Of course not. I might even get frustrated with them when I see the typo “evrybody” and say, “Why didn’t you use spell check?!” Spell check first appeared on personal computers 20 years ago, and today it is not only acceptable but expected that it be used in writing assignments.
    Carol said, “the technology deprives people of real social interaction and too often we then live in a ‘virtual’ world. The kids become addicted to this fake world!” And then Heather said, “I rarely text, and I wouldn’t dream of texting or e-mailing friends when I should be teaching!”
    I understand you guys and where you are coming from. I’m just old enough (27) to remember life without the internet. And I swore I wouldn’t get a cell phone (now I don’t have a home phone but do have a cell phone). I don’t have cable, and the only television in my apartment is sitting in a closet. And also I HATE video games. — But I will admit that I have a pretty active cyber social life and interact with most of my friends much more online than in person.
    And if my social world has gone online, kids today don’t know a world where there is no texting, or where they can’t communicate online with all of their friends. They are different. They see the world differently and communicate differently. I think that as foreign language teachers, we are selling a means of communication and if we can’t make foreign languages meaningful and relevant in the online social world, kids will not buy our product. We can’t set ourselves against this technology. It won’t be easy. I get just as frustrated when students text in class as the next teacher. But kids aren’t going to stop bringing these devices into school.
    I apologize for the rant. But I am pretty passionate about this topic, and I think it’s really important. We can’t beat the technological change that our students have embraced. And forgive me for the cliché but if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

  7. Don’t get my wrong…I can and do text when it is the right tool for the job. Uusally e-mail is more efficient, so that’s what I use. I’m more tech-literate than my students (I’m a web designer, and I can out-google even the best of them. Some of them have come to ME for tech advice).
    My problem isn’t with the kids using cell phones or texting their friends. It’s with them using them for 53 minutes out of a 55 minute class period. CI is NOT going to be gotten from their friend down the hall who is sitting in math class and texting them about their weekend. CI is coming from ME and what I am doing in class. If they’re texting the whole time, they are not getting CI.
    And it’s not with them using translators as a tool. I’ve told them – look up a word or phrase, fine. But there are some of them who won’t do that. It doesn’t matter what I ask them to do output-wise. They don’t even attempt to write it down using their knowledge. The first solution is the translator. If I ask a level 2 student to write a short paragraph about their name, their family members and what they like to do on the weekend, they will jump straight to Google. Never mind that they DO know how to say these things and have known them since semester 1 of French! It’s like hiring a guy to get rid of termites in your house and he always wants to detonate a faulty nuclear weapon there. Sure, it will kill the termites – but also everything else! In the meantime, he’s got a whole truck full of groovy termite-specific products, but that would actually require applying them correctly and going to look for where the termites are. It’s so much easier to just push a button and let the bomb do the work.
    I try to show them at the beginning of the year just how bad the translator sites are. I show them some really horrible translation and tell them I will always know if they had google translate it because it will either be really, really bad – or really, really good. Single words I can’t catch, but longer phrases I can. Maybe this next year we’ll spend some time on figuring out how to make google translations resemble French a little more closely, and then they’ll see why it’s actually more work than just figuring out a simple way to say something and using that.

  8. The heart of the issue is not technology. There are several components at work here and technology just helps them along.
    1. The message that schools have given students is this: Fill in the blank and hand it in.
    The answer is not as important as the filled-in blank. The way you get the answer is not important at all. Just get the blank filled in and handed in.
    I am not sure that schools nor teachers really mean to give this message to kids, but it is the message that they are taking away nonetheless.
    Handing in a completed paper is expected and graded.
    2. Thinking is not important. Giving the right answer is important. Students learn to give the right answer by whatever means necessary because what teachers are expecting is the right answer. It has been the experience of many students that giving the wrong answer only irritates or frustrates teachers.
    3. Getting things done within a predescribed time frame is vital. If it is late, it is worthless. So, again, getting the paper finished by whatever means necessary is more important than doing it right, doing it well, or doing it yourself.
    4. Schoolwork is not related to learning anything important. It may be related to getting a grade. It may be related to staying out of trouble. It may be related to getting into college. However, students do not believe that there is anything important to be learned in middle school/high school.
    5. Kids who text DO feel connected. That is the connection that they know. It makes them feel special, loved, important and worthy to send and receive texts. It has the same effect on adults who frequently communicate that way. Removing them from their phones feels, to them, like we are cutting off their oxygen supply. They feel as we might if we were left alone in a dark room with nothing to do. They can learn to feel differently, but that is how they feel.
    6. Independence is not part of their world. They are interdependent. It makes no sense to them to work/do something alone when someone else (or something else) is right there. How many of us walk when we can drive? They are doing what makes sense to them….and since we are adults….they are not doing what makes sense to us. :o)
    These are tough issues to fight…and yes…we’ll have to pick our battles….but if we are thoughtful and direct, as Heather suggests, we can work with it!
    with love,

  9. Heather, thank you for posting this heartfelt post. I also get very frustrated when I see that students have turned in something that is obviously done via computer translator. My approach to nixing this has been to seriously limit output, almost to the point of being an “input nazi” as Bryce described it. Maybe we just have to keep the output in the classroom, where we can see it, or like you mentioned above, work with them using the technology better if they must. They’ll still be getting input from it right?
    And thank you Laurie. Those are six beautifully articulated descriptions of the realities of our schools. Nonetheless, I agree with basically everything Steven said above. I think we must figure out how to make the CI more compelling than the technology if we want to succeed with students in the L2 classroom, even though that may be futile as per Ben’s comment.
    But it is so important for us to step back into the shoes of a student. From day 1, kids are given a choice between doing the work and getting the grade, or not doing the work and not getting the grade. But the issue is not, I believe, kids not wanting to do work or being lazy. It is the grade (reward) and the nature of the work, as per Laurie’s point #4. School work must obviously not be worth doing in its own right. Why do we have to assign a reward for its satisfactory completion if so?
    OT: A concerning issue revolving around cell phones could be that of radiation (no pun intended). Brain tumor incidents have been on the rise, and I personally know two people (maybe more) who have had them recently. Some long term studies (pardon the absence of citations) show some pretty scary statistics. And where do kids keep their cell phones throughout the day? Well, I always see them in their hooded sweatshirt pocket, right on their belly near many developing vital organs, so they can stealthily text away incognito.

  10. Correction: In the second paragraph above, it should read…
    “And thank you Laurie. Those are six beautifully articulated descriptions of the realities of our schools. ALSO, I agree with basically everything Steven said above. AND I think we must figure out how to make the CI more compelling than the technology if we want to succeed with students in the L2 NARRATIVE classroom, even though that may be futile as per Ben’s comment.”
    Sorry for the poorly articulated original.

  11. “…but the issue is not, I believe, kids not wanting to do work or being lazy…”.
    So true Jim. What saddens me is that what is “most important” is “getting ahead” and “grades” and “preparing for college” instead of “having fun” and “learning within spaces of joy”. Joylessness is there in their faces in so many of the moments of school, because assessment is the whip that is cracked by the teacher in order to keep the kids in line into June.
    In some teachers, assessment actually overtakes the classroom all year, and no real teaching occurs. That is a dark thing. It is why so many like Tolstoy and others couldn’t deal with school, seeing it as endless drudgery filled with mindless boring tasks, to paraphrase the great Russian master (can’t remember the specific text).
    We bring a lot of fun if our CI is done well, but, if they’ve got a test to study for, our classes seem to them less important – after all, all we do is speak the language in class, and it doesn’t seem like school.
    Teachers now in the spring deserve the loud snoring and springtime desk drooling of the kids they have written off when they refuse to support those kids all the way up to the final bell with something other than assessment driven lessons leading up to some useless final exam.

  12. Yes! I’ve got a girl who missed class for a week to go on her close-up trip. She’s been back now for about two weeks and I think I’ve seen her maybe once or twice during that time. I asked her friend about it yesterday and she told me that she’s busy getting caught up in all of her OTHER classes. So she’s been going to the library to work on those things, she’s obviously prioritized and stuck MY class at the bottom of the list. I guess I’d do the same thing if it were an option between failing required classes and not graduating vs. attending an elective where I already had a passing grade. Still, it makes me wonder just how much work these other teachers are assigning – are they going crazy with the work or has she been goofing off and now she has to work twice as hard to get back to passing? But now she’s missed THREE WEEKS of my class and all of the CI that goes with it. And guess what? We’re doing our district CRTs this week and last. Speaking test was on Friday. Writing test tomorrow. Multiple Choice test on Friday. Nothing I can do about it, but if she blows off the required district tests she’ll find herself not passing my class either.

  13. Darn it! The tags aren’t working for me.
    “We bring a lot of fun if our CI is done well, but, if they’ve got a test to study for, our classes seem to them less important – after all, all we do is speak the language in class, and it doesn’t seem like school. “

  14. I have had the same problem. AP testers get excused for the whole day, so the We the People kids have taken that chance to organize the rest of their lives and missed my class because they know that I won’t make it hard on them in class–I’ll instead do back flips to make sure they’re understanding.
    This year, my policy has been that kids who miss are supposed to write me a certain amount of text in story form. But if I haven’t specifically assigned something that day, there is really no reason for them to make that up, because their absence hasn’t hurt them in any way that they can tell. So sometimes with the worst offenders, I’ve made sure that on the days they miss, kids get credit for something so that the absentees will have to do their work. I hate doing that. It gets back to being not something that judges whether they have shown the ability to understand, speak, or write Russian. Instead, it’s a “were you in your seat” grade. I usually have a quiz grade and a writing grade each week, but that’s about it.
    If you require work from absentees, how do you include it in their grades on the days that they weren’t present if there were otherwise no tasks that awarded grades? Or do you just make sure you have a grade every day?

  15. Michelle asks, “If you require work from absentees, how do you include it in their grades on the days that they weren’t present if there were otherwise no tasks that awarded grades? Or do you just make sure you have a grade every day?”
    I don’t have full compliance on this, but it’s beginning to sink in. I give attendance points (10% of their grade–lose a point for a tardy, two for absence). They make up those points by turning in an “Absent from class” sheet listing what they missed, together with the back work. If we read from the novel, they have to turn in a 100-word summary in English to show they made up the reading. Generally there is something they can make up. Two points isn’t much, but it’s just a reminder that they missed something they need to make up.
    Ben said, “our classes seem to them less important – after all, all we do is speak the language in class, and it doesn’t seem like school. ” Isn’t that the truth? Kids always say, “Did I miss anything?” Very few really catch on to the fact that missing an hour of CI is a big deal. Aquiring is a language is so incremental and silent that they don’t understand what is happening. Or in the case of absentees, what didn’t happen.

  16. Rita,
    I like your idea of awarding attendance points. How many points do students begin with? Do you have any point “penalty” for leaving class early for sports or attending a band lesson?

  17. Toni–no one starts with points. Because I want attendance/participation to be 10% of their grade, I give 2 points/class, as we are on semi-block and meet about 25x/qtr. (500 total points/qtr.) I have just started tracking people leaving early for sports and have asked them to go through the absence procedure if they leave more than 15 minutes early. Since most classwork isn’t done for “points,” they tend to not make up readings or get missed vocab as it doesn’t show in the grading program. I don’t have a perfect system yet, but I want people to realize that there is something lost when they are out of class for any reason, even if it is an excused absence. In fact, I let the attendance officer keep track of excused tardies and absences–they mean nothing to me. All I care about is whether the student got his dose of CI that day. If not, I’d like him to do something to make up a bit of it.

  18. This looks like a good system, Rita. I am about ready to join it, even though I’m really bad at keeping track of points. Our Zangle system lets us see absences and tardies at a glance, so maybe I could put in a grade just once a month after counting it weekly a couple of times in August so that they get used to the idea. I would probably put it under a “citizenship” grade, as I grade by standards, and a grade of tardies and absences doesn’t show the actual ability to read/write/speak, whether or not it would reflect on those abilities. The only other thing that I played with this year was excusing kids who had been seriously sick from make up. That backfired, but with everyone getting the flu in the beginning of the year, I didn’t want to overload them the way everyone else was. So I think what I’ll do when a kid misses significant time for being ill (and brings a note) is have them make up the first and last day of the absence and nothing in between–except for assessments, if they don’t have enough to show progress.

  19. Thanks, Rita. It’s always nice to know what’s working for someone else. It’s nice to hear that you are making the effort to keep students accountable to for class time missed – excused or unexcused. :o)

  20. I ran into a lot of resistance when I tried to get kids to make-up time for band lessons, even though it does add up. I have figured, if it’s for a school function that they are missing class, it is not a big deal. But, beware of kids saying they “need” to go in for an extra band/choir lesson during language class. To each his/her own I suppose.

  21. And let us not forget that we are not language teachers per se (that is easy), but
    language teachers IN SCHOOLS. There is a big difference. And we must train to master the latter metier, unless we open up a school or some venue where our work meets a different audience. God bless all language teachers IN SCHOOLS. Especially this week, right?

  22. Two thoughts:
    1. Thank you for talking about the pushback! I just assume, when I get this, that it’s because I am doing something wrong. It never really occurs to me that the kids are having trouble simply because it is so different.
    2. Technology is a tool. And tools are only good when they are used in the right situations. A hammer does me no good when I am trying to get a phillip’s head screw into the wall. Well … it can get the screw in… but… it is not optimal.

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