Thursday, February 20, 2014

Shoe Ransom

Student timeliness on the last project was atrocious. The number of late submissions and mostly unconcerned attitudes made my stomach hurt. This kind of stuff happens on a fairly regular basis– summed up by the question "How do they not get this yet?"

My default response is to basically try to make students feel bad, to guilt trip them. I'm pretty sure this doesn't work. And it isn't fun. And I don't feel any better afterwards. They probably don't either.

An alternative approach has been brewing in my classroom however; one that plays largely off of humor, as well as positive relationships and culture. A few days ago was an example of this trend. It went something like this.
  1. We didn't get stuff done on time last project.
  2. Here's short, concise list of checkpoints for the current project. These things gotta be done today.
  3. I'm going to take your left shoe as ransom. You get it back when you show me your completed checklist.
Some students said that it would be in the best interest of the entire room for them to keep their shoes on (I offered to turn on the fume hood). Others simply weren't willing to part with their shoes and had something else readily available for this collateral. I wound up with a bin full of shoes, a sweatshirt, hats, headphones, Mace pepper spray (...don't ask...), and few other items. I made a quick trip across the commons to teasing show off my loot to some other teachers. 

Did students suddenly and drastically change all of their life habits and outlook towards responsibility, organization, and timeliness that day? Not quite. But we did laugh, and as a class we addressed the issue with out resorting entirely to shame and guilt. Most students did use time well and met the project checkpoints for the day. Some ended up walking to their next class with a bit of a limp. 

My bin of loot.

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