Avoiding ‘the Suck’

Tonight’s #flipclass #flashblog is all about the suck.

Or rather – procrastination/student wasted time during projects. How do we handle it? How do we keep it to a minimum? How do we keep it from creeping back the next time you work on a really great project?

As teachers we always feel that the project we develop and share with our students is AMAZING! You work on it, tweak it, make it awesome, and believe your kids are going to be so into it. You arrange the time in class for them to work on it, you go over it in detail, and you step back and let them do their thing….totally confident that they will find it totally as AMAZING as you do.

And then, reality.

The investment and the work isn’t happening at the fever pitch you imagined and students aren’t getting it done. So much so, the quality of the projects presented is well below expectations. Not because they weren’t capable, but because they waited till the last minute.

Has this happened to you? Its happened to me – still happens on occasion- even after 13 years teaching. The most recent was our Ebola outbreak project. My colleagues and I planned this really cool project. Give students a hypothetical vaccine for Ebola (that they ‘developed’) and have them design how they will test if the vaccine is effective and what data for that might look like.

C’mon! This had ‘hook’ written all over it. Ebola was major frontline news and was knocking on our door. Hell, they were talking about it without any prompting from me. And – yet, they still didn’t do it. Still put it off. Still waited till the last minute.

So what to do to avoid this suck? (and avoid the bruises on my forehead from banging it on my desk?)

  • Check-ins. Constantly. Move around from group to group during work time and talk with them. Ask them questions about what they are doing. Never walk away to another group if they don’t answer.
  • Be part of the process. Google Docs has made this so much easier! I can give feedback during the time and nothing should be a major surprise the day the project is due.
  • Allow time to revise. One and done can’t be an option on major big, cool projects. You revised the project before giving it to your students – they should be allowed to revise as well.

Truth is: every student (and teacher for that matter) can be afflicted by the suck. Really what it comes down to is knowing your students. Know the ebbs and flows of your class. Sometimes giving into moments of suck (albeit briefly) can be ok – if you know your group and you know if they can pull themselves out of it. Make sure they see you as part of it, and that you want to learn with them. If you are giving this as a means to sit at your desk – they’ll know.

We all need help to avoid the suck. It takes effort, but just like muscles, the more you work, the more fit you become.

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