Who Owns the Problem?

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben's Patreon at $10 or more
Already a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to access this content.



19 thoughts on “Who Owns the Problem?”

  1. I am going in front of the mirror right now practicing “Bummer, bummer, bummer…….” because I am that sucky teacher who attracts those problems like fly paper.

  2. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

    Wow Robert,
    Thank you so much for this. Wish I had read it earlier today. One of my kids came and told me he didn’t deserve a 7 out of 10 so I gave him an 8. Was not in the mood to justify myself and had no time, took the easy way out.
    Like Brigitte I will practice in front of the mirror tomorrow :
    ” bummer, bummer, bummer”

    1. Hey, Sabrina, none of us do these wonderful things all the time; it just helps to be aware of the issues.
      As far as the student earlier today goes, the burden of justification is on him. If you have a rubric, engage the student roughly as follows:
      Student: I didn’t deserve a 7 out of 10 on this.
      You: Okay, here’s the rubric. Go through your work with me using the rubric and show me where you should have scored higher.
      This establishes a couple of things:
      1. You are the authority
      2. You are willing to listen to students
      3. Students need to be able to analyze and justify their own work
      My results on this vary. There have been a few times that I have said, “You’re right; I will change the score.” Most of the time, though, the student quickly acknowledges that the score was appropriate; occasionally the student even recognizes that the score was an act of grace.
      If it was an oral assessment, this is harder to do, but you can still go through the rubric and have the student explain why his performance should have been scored higher. What did he do or not do to justify this? Often, students think they did something that they did not.
      Of course, it’s easy for me to write this sitting in my kitchen while my tea is brewing. In the press of the moment I, too, all too often take the “easy way” out.

  3. This is great Robert! Just the mindset I needed for going into second semester next week… it’s their problem, not mine! It’s kind of liberating really…
    Do you mind if I repost the “Joe” part of the story on my blog? tprsteacher.wordpress.com?

    1. Anything I post here that isn’t copyrighted by someone else (and I will always give credit for that) is free to all members of the PLC. Use, adapt it, edit it, etc. We’re here to help each other, and I’m glad that some of you have found the piece useful.

  4. Thanks from me too Robert. Great mindset as I enter the 2nd semester. I have to confess as well that I haven’t been consistently and efficiently applying jGR. I need to do this and at least practice it 2nd semester so I can be ready to use it better next year too.
    Thanks again, David

  5. Okay, we’re in second semester of Spanish 1 and 2 — jGR is posted; making attempt to review the “rules” beginning of each class — STILL have blurting out in English, side conversations, no attempt to communicate in the language. HOW do I let them know they are getting 1’s without doing the primary school practice of putting their names on the board with a “1” next to it? !!!

    1. Hey Sharon,
      I also just started my semester and am in much the same mode of getting us all back on track. I made my jGR poster bigger, for one thing. Last week I had the students write up a self evaluation based on the rubric. We reviewed it together, and it was front and center. All I said was “tell me where you see yourself on this spectrum, explain why, and give me some specific examples of skills you are showing me in class.” I emphasized that the different levels show increasing skill level, and I also emphasized that these are skills that I can see them using.
      Most kids were very accurate in their assessments. The exceptions were a couple of 4% ers who said things like “I deserve a 4” which shows me they are still not getting the “observable skill” piece. The rubric has nothing to do with “deserving” but with showing the skill. It is actually quite concrete! One girl said “I hate signaling,” which I already knew. Bummer for her, because she needs to ask for clarification! I have adapted the signaling piece, esp for upper levels, telling them that they can just ask verbally “Que veut dire…? or say “je ne comprends pas,” but that the point is they need to ask for clarification always in an oral situation.
      These reflections so far have been the most honest / candid. I have tried using the checklists with boxes but then they just put in the number they want and I cannot understand how they are thinking. So for me the narrative worked better. One kid who is a hard core minimalist (one word cryptic answers for everything) actually wrote out several sentences! He is having some issues and now I feel like we are in a dialogue and we can take action / move forward.
      Anyway, one thing that has helped is that I walk over to the chart and silently point out the level 1 and make intentional sustained eye contact with blurters for each infraction. I also remind kids that if someone tries to engage them in a side conversation, they have the choice not to engage. In fact, I say “every moment in here you are choosing your actions.” Sometimes it helps to say “remember you are being graded in here every day.”
      I have also been using Robert’s mantra: “There is one conversation, with the whole group, in French (Spanish).” So then I my verbal reminders sound more like an invitation than a warning…”C, please join the group!” I also saw the 5th grade teacher using similar language to get kids back in the fold.
      I have major issues during transitions, like passing out notebooks or shifting from reading to story, or whatever. I spoke about how the transition is not a licesne to erupt into English. Yesterday I tried this cool thing that I saw a 5th grader teacher do last week in a transition. First I alerted them (in TL) that a transition was coming. Then I said “if you can hear me, stand up and put your hands on top of your head.” Then I did a very short bit of TPR at this time just to get them moving and keep their mouths shut! It was pretty slick.
      Yesterday all of these strategies worked magically and I had the best class ever with one of my chatty groups!

        1. Honestly, it is really random. My classes are all back-to back and I have trouble with the bookkeeping aspect, but it is probably every week or 10 days. Sometimes I forget for long stretches. I need a better system, I know, but that is my reality right now. I basically use the system of assuming everyone is at a 3 and making a note of anyone who is above or below that level. I often go back and fill this in retroactively. Just being honest. We don’t have online grading at this point. When we do get that, I’ll be forced to snap to! That will probably make things easier in some ways.

  6. Oh, wow. I need to remember this, because I am the biggest softie in the world when it comes to student excuses and I know that can lead to me being taken advantage of.
    One thing I struggle with is late work: On the one hand, if a student has the skill, then they should get the grade. Turning in work on-time is not in my standards. On the other hand, this leads to students not taking their work seriously and turning in crap at the last possible moment, and then me having to go through a big pile of shoddy late work that would be better off in the trash. (Or even better, never getting turned in in the first place because of the “bummer” response.) Thoughts?

  7. Honestly, the Zen part of this in my own thinking is that if they hand in crap at the last minute, if that’s the culture where you work (it’s called school), then why do it? Why put them in the position of handing you that stuff? It undermines respect for learning. It separates kids along lines of those who do it and those who don’t and divides the class. I am certain that we can instruct our children just fine without ever giving them this kind of “work”.

  8. Thanks Robert!
    I’ve been trying hard to keep this in mind! It’s sobering to realize that for some kids you really do have to crack the whip, because their optimal school experience is spent asleep or talking.

  9. Well here we are on the eve before final exams. I have had several kids AND parents come to me or email me in the past 2-3 days asking what they could do to bring tbeir grAde up. Thanks to this PLC, I very calmly said, “Nothing. I do not allow makeups within the two weeks till Finals. It’s in my class expectations which I handed out in September, and I reiterated that the end of 3Q. BUT what you CAN do in the future is to pay attention in class instead of chatting and to do your assignments when they’re due and follow the directions. Do not wait till a week after they’re due and tell me you lost the rubric. That’s a BUMMER!”
    Thank you Robert! (For writing this 2 yeRs ago…I’ve grown my backbone!)
    Hahaha. 🙂

  10. This was what I needed last week. and I will need it the the next four days.
    “Atlas, the weight of the world is not on your shoulder.” Bummer.
    “Sisyphus, the stone is at the bottom of the hill.” Bummer.
    (Jon De Mado uses Sisyphus as a parable for traditional language teacher. Every year, Sisyphus is doomed to push the grammar lessons up the hill, only to find them at the bottom of the hill the following year and repeating the process of pushing them back up.)

Leave a Comment

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

Stendra Super Force generico all’ingrosso

Stendra Super Force generico all’ingrosso Valutazione 4.6 sulla base di 352 voti. Nome del prodotto: Stendra Super Force Categoria: Disfunzione Erettile Nome commerciale: Extra Super

The Problem with CI

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to

CI and the Research (cont.)

To view this content, you must be a member of Ben’s Patreon at $10 or more Unlock with PatreonAlready a qualifying Patreon member? Refresh to



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben