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Do We Have to Do This?

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At the beginning of every unit, our biology teacher gives the students a study guide. Every question on the test is covered on the study guide, often using the exact same wording, often listed in the same order. He also tells them that if their study guide is complete, he will go over it with them for accuracy and – this is the killer – he will go over the REAL test a day or two before they have to take it. Yes, that’s what I said! He will go over the actual test, question by question, if the students show him a finished study guide. He also tells them that if for any reason they need to retake their test, they need the completed study guide to do so. What a gift! What an opportunity!

Their other teachers know this test is coming up, and they want them to succeed and do well and get a great start in biology, so they remind the kids that anyone who wants a little extra help can come to me at the end of the day. And then I hear it – the most amazing statement – and the most annoying to those of us whose mission it is to help kids: “Do we have to do the study guide?”

They think because it isn’t “an assignment,” they don’t have to do it. Of all the things they are asked to do in this class, the study guide is probably the most important, and they think they don’t have to do it. My poor heart!

They do the same thing with extra credit. How crazy is that? Free points, and they don’t even try. Many teachers offer extra credit questions on tests, and I repeatedly see they aren’t answered. Many teachers offer extra credit opportunities. Generally only the A students do it. Besides raising grades, completed extra credit sends a message: I care about my grade. I’m willing to work just a little more in order to ensure a good grade. I have a work ethic. I want to do well. I want you to know I am a serious student.

The same kids who don’t complete study guides, don’t attempt extra credit, don’t ask for help, are the first to blame the teacher for their grade. He teaches like a college professor – as if they’d know. He lost my work. He wasn’t there when I went in for help. Really?! If kids are choosing not to complete work or take notes or capitalize on the very generous offers of their teachers and teacher assistants, they are also choosing a lower grade. We should at least take responsibility for that.

The next time you see your kid in front of the computer or the television and he/she insists there is no homework, ask to see their study guides. Ask if there is an extra credit opportunity. And insist that for you, those are “required.” You can check with the classroom teachers about upcoming tests and projects and extra credit opportunities. Often you can find that information on the school website. You’ve heard me say it before, “There is always homework.” Make sure your students are doing everything they can to be and do the best that they can. Doing a little more than expected always takes you farther in a very big way.