Below are questions and answers that, after 12 years of teaching, I have been asked. These are good questions that are often found in or explained on teacher Disclosure Documents. I will not be giving any test or quizzes on the information below. The information provided below is intended to provide clarity on expectations, grading, technology and so forth.
Question: What is your policy on cell phones in class?
Answer: We live in a digital age and our cell phones provide us with so much information and opportunities to learn. So much GOOD can and does come from these devices. They also present so many challenges by way of distractions and addictions. I expect students to live in the moment while we are together for 80 minutes every other day. We will use cell phones at various times throughout the course of our study. I will let students know when is an acceptable time to use them. Otherwise, students should have them put away in their pockets or bags. In the event they are out when they should not be, I will kindly ask them to put it away. 99% of the time students do. In the event they do not, I will request the phone and I will hold onto it until the end of class. Me having to take the phone and hold onto it until the end of class is considered violation #1. On violation #2, I will send it to the office. On violation #3, I will make a phone call home. Here's the good news: I've never made a phone call home and we've never got to the Violation #3 stage. I fully expect that to be the case this year, too.
Question: What is your grading scale and how do you grade?
Answer: My grading scale is very much in line with how most teachers grade with the exception of my D- scale. Here is the breakdown:
A = 94-100 A- = 90-93 B+ = 87-89 B = 84-86 B- = 80-83 C+ = 77-79 C = 74-76 C- = 70-73 D+ = 67-69 D = 64-66 D- 20-63 F = 0-19
The reason for this D- scale is simple: When a student is sitting at a 40% or 18% or 3% in any given class, including mine in the past, they feel very little hope. They feel as though any assignment they do or complete or test they retake will only move their grade a tiny bit. To quote a former student who was in such a predicament, "It's like throwing a BB at a freight train, Horne." The scale I've set has been one I've used for the past 4 years and has shown to do great things for students. In terms of grading, if a student wants an "A" in my class, they can get one. Even if they fail a test or an assignment. If they are ready and willing to do what is asked, we can bridge the gap with various content-related assignments and activities. Students should not be stressing over grades. They should be falling in love with the PROCESS of learning! That is what I care about most: This Process. I do not have a weighted system that I follow with grades. I go by a point system and tests/quizzes are worth more than an in-class assignment we may do. For every test/quiz/essay/project, I expect students to demonstrate mastery on those assessments. 75% is where I have established the mastery standard. If, after getting to Mastery on an assignment, any student desires to bridge the gap in points to earn a grade they desire, those opportunities will be afforded to them.
Question: What supplies does my child need for your class?
Answer: I will provide everything required for students to be successful in class. Students should come to class prepared with a pen/pencil, but even then I will have a supply of those so that students can be successful in all we do in class. Donations ARE welcome, however. I invite you to consider donating to my classroom through the Alpine Foundation so that I am able to go purchase needed supplies tax-free for the work we do in class. The money donated is used to buy composition notebooks, pencils, pens, colored pencils, technology, books, chalk, posters, etc.
Question: What classroom rules or expectations do you have for your students?
Answer: When I was a new teacher, I used to have a list of rules that students were expected to follow. Over time, that list whittled down more and more. On my home page, you see the story I put there in relation to Mohammed Ali. In 7 words, I expect students (and I hold myself to the same standard) to adopt the following mantra: Imma show you, how great I am. I've had this expectation in place for many years now and as a result, I have minimal behavior or academic problems. In the lessons we have in history, we learn about people who did precisely this and showed the world their light and thereby changed the world. "Imma show you, how great I am" is referenced many times over the course of the year. That's my greatest expectation of students: Show your greatness! Every class is so different and each class ends up forming their own culture, which is something really cool to participate in with the students. As students are committed to showing me their greatness, we don't have issues with hall pass abuse, cell phones, behaviors and so forth.
Along those same lines, I have another acronym that we follow and to most students surprise that acronym is PIRATE. PIRATE is an acronym that stands for the following:
P - Passionate I - Innovative, Impactful & Inspiring R - Respectful & Real A - Accountable T - Tenacious E - Empower, Empathize & Excellence
PIRATEs are not the wild, lawless characters portrayed in books, movies or even in history. PIRATEs are rebranding and this is what it means to be a PIRATE!
Question: What will my child learn in 8th grade US History I?
Answer: We will follow the State Core for US History I. We start the year by looking at the Americas prior to Europeans arriving and we go through 7 different units, wrapping up the school year with the American Civil War and Reconstruction. Click the button below for easy, quick access to the State Core for our class. My website is where all of the lessons can be accessed as well as CANVAS. Both are most excellent resources for all of us to learn and grow together. As you hover over the US History I title, the drop down menu will show each of our units and in each unit parents and students will be able to see precisely what we will be learning in that unit. My website is a "living document", meaning it is constantly being improved and updated.
Question: If we have a family vacation, illness, or any other kind of family emergency and we miss school, what would you like us to do?
Answer: In the event of a family vacation, I will work to get the assignments to students prior, but please understand that our plans can change depending on many factors. With the benefit of Canvas, there are modules that I'm able to make available for students to complete upon the return of a vacation. I do NOT want students doing homework on a vacation. That's time to bond with family and have a release from school or other life stressors. I prefer students to complete the work upon their return from a vacation because I will have then taught the lessons and will know more fully what they will need to complete for any assignments missed and I will be able to update any material on my website or CANVAS. Students will be able to make up any missed assignments during SHIELD time, before school or after school.
In the event of illness: STAY HOME. PLEASE! I WILL work with you upon your return. Stressing about missing school or schoolwork is so counterproductive when you are unwell. Stress does not help you heal faster. REST. Do not come to school and get others sick. I want you to know I empathize with the feeling of getting behind in all your classes. That is a real thing to be worried about, but know you have an army of teachers ready and willing to help you get caught up using so many of the awesome resources at the school including CANVAS, before school, SHIELD time, and after school. When unwell, focus on getting well!!
As for any other reasons for missing school, I will make EVERY reasonable accommodation to help you be successful and achieve the academic results you desire. Perhaps the most important component in this message is this: COMMUNICATE. I'm here to help in any way I can.
Question: What is your policy on late work & extra credit?
Answer: There are firm dates and deadlines that I expect things to be turned in for a grade. In my class, we have tests, essays and/or projects that are MASTERY BASED. What that means, is that I have deemed those to be of great importance and I expect EVERY student to demonstrate MASTERY COMPETENCY on those things. I have set the MASTERY standard at 75%. That means no student should have anything less than a 75% on tests, essays or projects. For all other assignments we do, (DBQ's, SHEG Assignments, in class reports or handouts), those are most often valued at 25 points. If you do not turn it on the date assigned, you can still turn it in for a 20% penalty the following class period. If you turn it in two class periods late, then it will receive a 40% dock in points. I will not dock it beyond that, but it will be expected to be complete. Once the term is completed, I will no longer accept the work for previous terms. If you are desiring extra credit points to elevate your grade, there MUST be points in Skyward for EVERY assignment I provide and MASTERY MUST have been demonstrated on all mastery-based assessments I provide. Yes, my policy with late work is quite merciful and that is done intentionally. I want students to take the ownership for not getting something turned in on time. I want them to understand the "real world" application here that if things are not done on time or deadlines are not met that there are consequences. I also want them to feel like they can still recover from it and that "all is not lost" as a result. HOPE. MERCY. Things that the world desperately needs more of and what our future leaders will need to possess in elevating our world and to help all of us shine even more.
The opportunities for extra credit are limitless. Truly. I will announce many opportunities in class and will entertain (and most often accept) the options students may present to me for consideration. The takeaway here with my approach on grading is to remove all unnecessary stress and to focus on LEARNING. To quote a great mentor of mine: Grades are one of the greatest barriers to student learning. Again, fall in love with the process, not the outcome. The outcomes will be far more beautiful as we fall in love with the process.
LAKE MOUNTAIN MIDDLE SCHOOL does not discriminate on the basis of age, ethnicity, disability, national origin, race, religion, or gender in its programs or activities. Please contact a school administrator if you have any questions or concerns.