Monday, December 5, 2011

'Tis the Season

Written by Ms. Berman
Inspired by my co-teacher, Ms. Kelli Connaughton
Dedicated to my IB Biology Students
You only have to do two of the three free response questions, I told my IB Biology students as they were starting their test last Friday.  We had just finished a fast paced tutorial and I was excited because I knew that they were ready for the exam.  “Can we do the third one for extra credit?” a high achieving student asked.  Shocker!  I should have seen that one coming, I thought.  An incredibly polite and hard working group of students, I wanted to say yes, but wasn’t sure if I was letting down my guard too early in the semester.  I turned to my co-teacher, who was on her prep period working at the computer, with a questioning look, and she gave me the perfect answer, “’tis the season.” 
Okay, so here’s the thing.  Can a teacher simultaneously cut her students some slack and yet push them to do a substantial amount of work for her class?  Students in this generation are under such incredible pressure, do they really need one more teacher threatening them with grades in order for them to succeed?  If I merely set the bar and define clear expectations, will my juniors keep up with the rigor, or will they push me for more opportunities for extra credit, cutting corners on assignments, asking to turn things in late?  These are questions that can’t be answered at this point in the school year as this is the first time that I have taught this course as an IB non-testing class, and have had the luxury to set my own pace.  This is the first time that I have had 41 students in a classroom with no discipline problems.  This is the first time that all of my students are motivated and I don’t have a single student failing at the 12-week grading period.   
So, juniors, formerly the sophomores who felt negatively perceived by the IS staff, you are the members of my experimental protocol.  My hypothesis is that given the proper data pool (i.e. a certain level of maturity on the part of the students), an IB science course can be taught in a less stern and rigid manner.  Students will maintain a sense of decorum, do the required assignments because it is the right thing to do, and successfully learn the curriculum.  In my analysis, I will address the fact that when a student asks if the non-required free response question could be used for extra credit, a progressive instructor should be thinking, “Isn’t it grand that my students know enough Biology to tackle that optional question?”