Is the cup half full, half empty, ready for more or simply too big? I have always appreciated the philosophical discussion that can arise from this question.
In teaching we are given numerous chances to reflect on the effectiveness of our practices. Like the cup question we are always in the position to decide how things are going. The five week periods within quarters, the quarters themselves, and then the semester point. I chose to make the five week reports a place for providing tips and insight on student actions. The purpose is to help parents guide students in the direction they need to go to reach the goals they stated on their first days sheets.
The ten week or quarters is a time to evaluate if our path is clear enough to reach the end point. While it is helpful for the student/parent to gauge progress it also guides me as the teacher. Looking across the grades I can see which units contained instruction that motivated and resonated with students helping them to grasp the content. In the first quarter, more than any other, I can see the growth and change during the quarter as students adjust to my style vs. their last science teacher. I see the increase in quality of work as students adjust to significantly more challenging concepts that they have little pre-knowledge of.
This year I had a significantly more diverse group of students than ever. The strong were stronger and the weak were much weaker. Study skills were either present or not. As I began my first semester grades I faced a stark reality; for some this class was way too easy and for others it was way too hard. I had to make a choice, was my glass half full, half empty or too big. How was I going to continue making sure each student has a worthwhile and forward moving experience in class?
I went back to my parent/student first day sheets; “Nervous about her being successful”, “concerned about their frustration with school (not just your class)”, “hopeful they will be challenged for the first time”. As I moved grades over and placed my 250 characters of comments I shifted my approach from teacher to parent/student. Am I doing what is appropriate and inline with their expectations? Am I helping students with skills that will benefit them outside of my class?
This is when I decided, my glass was half full. The student of the first quote raised her grade 15 points from 5 week to 10 week and held steady at the 20 week point. The second student had attended school 2x the number of days than any year prior. The third student, the strongest I had, mostly 100’s but posing and exploring some high level challenging questions. While I had a few kids who had earned grades that didn’t pass they also recognized the level of the class and were adjusting their approach. We were learning skills beyond content. The inmseasurables that would certainly payoff down the road at some point in time in this class or other challenging classes. Even that group was better off than if they hadn’t taken the class at all.
For some I know this may be the most challenging class they ever take. For others it is the beginning of challenging classes. With this cup currently being half full, I look forward to where we are going and how high our cup can be filled.