My students have not yet failed to surprise me. Last term we sat down for a class meeting to discuss some issues that had arisen in the class (lack of focus, lack of engagement, lack of commitment to completing work to a high standard). It has to be one of the best spent 70 minutes sessions I've spent with the class (despite some teachers thinking otherwise). Since then the class and I have had a far more productive relationship and the quality of their work has seen a marked improvement.
In the last two weeks I've been blown away from the products of this class meeting a couple of times. The first was a conversation I had with a student on the due date of their latest formal assessment task. A student lingered after class to apologise for not handing in his best possible work and I asked if maybe I'd been setting my standards too high. His reply, "Maybe, but, nah, Miss. If you don't have high standards I won't work for you."
One of the issues we discussed was homework - they weren't doing what I set and while feeling like I was fighting a losing battle I was beginning to slack off with the setting of homework. They came clean that they wanted homework that was interesting, that helped them build English skills (vocab, expression), and that allowed them to expand their knowledge and awareness of the world. I was kind of shocked at first, these students acknowledged the importance of homework and they were willing to negotiate a deal.
Once a week they get a topic loosely linked to the unit we're studying which requires them to form an opinion and research some evidence to back it up. They get to choose if they blog it or write it in their books, but the expectation is that it'll be done by the last lesson of the week.
Some of my quietest students have taken to this new homework set up with a passion. Their blogs are always well thought out and supported with great research. So...I've been pushing buttons through the comments and challenging their thinking. Now, I have had a couple of students come to me in class and say "I saw your reply Miss, but I don't get what you're asking." But there's a couple who have left me speechless. It's clear these two are starting to think on a whole new level and it's exciting. If they're thinking like this in Year 11 I can't wait to see what they're like at the end of Year 12!
I guess that's why I'm nervous about the next few weeks and taking a step back from the class for a while. I'm going to miss them and the intellectual conversations we're starting to have, I just hope they don't slip into apathy again...