The end of the fall semester is a great time to clean house.
1. Go through stuff you’ve got piled up, stuffed in boxes, etc.
2. Organize what you must keep. Get plastic containers and label them.
3. Throw out stuff you’ve been saving, but won’t ever use again.
4. Recycle whatever you can.
5. Give away whatever some people will take.
6. Follow your district/campus policy on items (computers/cameras/etc.) that you can not throw away.
7. Simplify your life, especially your teaching materials. I have stuff from 1995, when I first started teaching. We don’t even use film, croppers, Pagemaker, old fashioned column design anymore. So why exactly do I have boxes of film, Pagemaker disks, and books about ancient design? Not anymore.
8. The end of the fall semester is a good time for staff evaluations. In 12 years I have learned that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. Now is the time to address staff issues before the real stressful deadlines come in the next three months.
Kids that can’t or won’t turn in work on deadline, miss photo assignments, don’t/won’t sell books or ads, or have toxic personalities just drag your staff down. If you are allowed to remove failing/toxic staff members – you should. But, remember, they are teenagers. Do it with tact and professionalism. Try to be as caring as you can be – and never be cruel. Some kids will actually thank you because they wanted to quit, but didn’t want to make you mad.
If you can’t have them removed – you might talk to them about their asking to get out of the class. Explain to them that they must do their work in order to pass the class. So they really need to either dedicate themselves to getting their work done – on time, find a new class or accept that they are going to continue to get a failing grade.
For most, their best option is to find a class that suits them better. Often times kids get into a media class, especially yearbook, because they think it is an easy A or a blow off class. They don’t understand that desktop publishing and creating a yearbook, broadcast, newspaper, or web site is a serious, difficult job.
If the student is unwilling to leave the class, but also unwilling to become more dedicated – then it may be time to get a parent involved. They need to be made aware of how much work is needed to pass the class, and how much more is expected for an A or B grade. Many parents will work with you to get their child into an “easier” class or to dedicate themselves more fully to passing your class.
But ultimately you must evaluate the impact that one unmotivated student can have on the other students on your staff that do want to have a great media product. You must also consider how dangerous it is to have them around very expensive equipment like digital cameras, DV cameras, lights, media cards, computers, etc.
It can be a hard balancing act – students, counselors, parents, schedules, and more.
Remember – you are trying to do whatever is best for each kid within you sphere of influence. Try to do what is best for each person, while doing the best for the group as well. Also try to keep this as professional as possible. Document poor behavior, late work, incomplete work, missing work, etc. Also try to get all parties to understand that your class is still a class. It may not be required to graduate, but it is also not a place for slacking, sleeping, playing games and doing nothing.
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