Looking for perfect

sols_6We are 9 days out from the end of school. My wild but wonderful students tried checking out a few weeks ago when our major testing was over. I have continued to keep our schedule going and expect that they be doing their best. No checking out yet! I now have been asking for what I call “your 6th grade work”. Your very best.

We are going to be 6th graders in the fall so we now need to read and write like we are sixth graders. I have been pushing and pushing with each writing assignment. Notebook after notebook gets turned back to them to try again.

I feel like the evil editor. I do not except short answers that don’t make sense, I don’t except summaries that are not connected, or fiction stories that are only beginnings with no story behind them. My students keep looking at me like I am crazy. There are several who are mad, several who threw a fit today and said they were not writing but I stood my ground.

I hid my fears that this was not a good idea, that I needed to be all accepting. All the old feelings of the mean writing teacher came to my head. I sat worrying that I was stifling their writing but – and it is a big but – some of my students don’t make sense when they write, they are not using punctuation correctly, they do not have a clear beginning, middle and end. How are they going to learn if I don’t hold the line and say no – try this again.

So we are trying again and again and again. Today the comment was “What! Are you looking for perfect?!” I said – “Well yes!  I am looking for YOUR Perfect! I need your best thinking and writing on everything we do.”

A few would not write, a few sat for awhile and many went at it again to see what they could do to change their work. I worried again but it was to late if I had pushed to hard.

Here is what happened – TD ( special ed student) wrote a summary of random words which I read back to him – he hurried off to re write and came back with four good complete sentences with punctuation. AL ( a good writer to start with) when off with her two page rain story and returned this morning with four neatly handwritten pages. Two other students sat angry in class today but came up during lunch to begin writing and took their writing home to finish.

We are a long ways from perfect but we are once again on our way to making improvements and trying to do our best. I am holding my own and remaining the “mean” editor with lots of praise the minute they make improvements. I guess it is ok to give a bit of tough love when looking for perfect!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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2 Responses to Looking for perfect

  1. elsie says:

    Stand firm, they will come around, eventually. These are the toughest days, especially when other classes around you have stopped teaching.

  2. jen b. says:

    Yay! Good for you! This is a very teacher-version of “Tough Love”. I did the same thing this week. I was MEAN. I teach intervention reading, and I had let a student be “done” with services last week, right before end-of-year testing. I told him that he passed with flying colors in the winter, and he has worked so hard that I knew he would do JUST FINE. He didn’t. He did so poorly, he earned himself the LOWEST score in the grade level. I was MAD. I took a few deep breaths, but I still let mad exist. I marched into his classroom, asked him what happened, and listened as he said, “It was hard,” with not a single ion of emotion in his little being. I held MAD back and let mad peek through. “Really? SO HARD that you were in the top 35% in January and now you are in the bottom 10%?” He looked at the floor. I had my answer. I simply told him, “I knew you could do it, but I think you chose not to. Therefore, I have to take back what I said before, because now your scores show that you actually do need to be in my room. See you in a few minutes.” Oh, he showed up. Mad and snippy, and all “Mighty Fifth Grade” attitude on me, and I ignored all things but him, the little boy that was embarrassed and mad at himself, and we worked. We worked hard yesterday, and he worked all by himself. He did not want my help. He did not NEED my help. And today? He showed up again. Mad and a bit snooty one more time, and when I asked which book he would be reading, he showed me the title: “My Teacher Fried My Brain”. I was quiet for a second and then said, “You are reading that because of Mr. Z, right?” he looked up out of the corner of my eye and saw my tiny little grin tucked beneath my surface and he said, “NOPE.” and returned the tiny little grin just beneath his surface, and I said, “OK. I’m OK with that. You did really great work today, and I will see you next week.” And as he left, I KNEW that we are OK. And as he left, I KNEW that I taught him a lesson bigger than how to answer a comprehension question correctly. 🙂

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