I'm dividing today's email into two parts: first, I'd like to talk about managing attendance; second, I'll address an email I received about middle school teaching.
There are a few things with taking attendance that you must keep in mind, and a few things that you may keep in mind. Believe it or not, the way you take attendance has a subtle but profound effect on student behavior.
IMPORTANT: Do not allow students to return to class with uncleared absences. Make sure that all your students go to the attendance office and clear all absences before they come to your class. ISIS will tell you if students have uncleared absences.
TAKE ROLL SILENTLY. Avoid taking class time to call out student names every day. Taking roll should normally take less than 30 seconds, not counting the time it takes to enter marks in ISIS.
USE A SEATING CHART. Require your students to sit in the same seat daily, and take attendance by looking for empty seats during the warm up. To mark absences, all you have to do is mark the empty seats. If you currently don't do it this way, you might want to take a week or so of announcing absences--"The following people have been marked absent"--and waiting for the occasional protest--"I"m not absent!" Simply ensure that the protesting student is sitting in the correct seat, apologize, and move on. (Hint: If students are chronically out of their assigned seats, marking them absent in this way helps to create accountability for staying seated.)
You should also use the seating chart to facilitate memorizing student names, ensure equity in student/teacher interaction, and managing misbehavior.
BE STRICT ABOUT TARDIES. There should be a consequence for every tardy, even if it's a small consequence. With middle school students, you may need to be explicit: "You must be in your seat when the bell is finished ringing or you are tardy," or "You must be inside the room when the bell rings," or "You must be starting the warm up," or whatever fits your situation the best, so long as you aren't lax about it.
I received the following email, which I have excerpted, in response to yesterday's email addressing middle school. My comments are in CAPS:
"...At high school ... the complaints I hear from students arise when teachers are not fair and tend to rely on curriculum to provide discipline."
MANAGING A CLASSROOM IS ALSO MANAGING CONTENT, BUT CONTENT SHOULD NEVER BE USED AS A FORM OF PUNISHMENT UNLESS YOU WANT TO TRAIN YOUR STUDENTS TO HATE YOUR CONTENT. IF YOU HAVE BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS IN YOUR CLASSROOM, IT OFTEN MEANS THAT YOUR
"Contrary to many teacher¹s beliefs math/science/history (insert subject here) [may] not [be] a student's favorite subject and it takes a dynamic, engaging teacher to make a subject interesting when the initial excitement is not there."
"Having taught/worked at all levels including adult professional development
I would say hands down the best teachers can be found in middle schools. I
think the best content experts are at high school, the best personalizers
are in elem.."
BEFORE ANYONE GETS OFFENDED BY THIS, I WOULD LIKE TO CLARIFY WHAT I THINK IS MEANT HERE.
MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORKING IN INTERMEDIATE CONTENT LEVELS, AND GOOD PEDAGOGY IS OFTEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN UNDERSTANDING THE HIGHER LEVELS OF CONTENT. MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS ARE USUALLY AS EXPERT AS HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS AND COLLEGE PROFESSORS IN THEIR CONTENT AREAS, BUT THEY MUST SACRIFICE THE UPPER LEVELS OF CONTENT TO PREPARE THEIR CHARGES TO RECEIVE THAT CONTENT LATER.
HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS MUST PREPARE THEIR STUDENTS FOR THE DEMANDING LACK OF PEDAGOGY THAT IS OFTEN FOUND IN COLLEGE COURSES, AND THERE ARE HIGH LEVELS ON CONTENT PROFICIENCY THAT HIGH SCHOOL TEACHERS ARE REQUIRED TO DELIVER. THE PROPER BALANCE BETWEEN PEDAGOGY AND CONTENT IS DIFFICULT TO MAINTAIN.
"The question is: how do we ... teachers that have a great passion for the content ... [enable] all students, both those passionate about their subject and not so passionate, to appreciate the subject and find something that is interesting to them?
AND THAT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IS NOT A QUESTION THAT CAN BE ANSWERED EASILY. IT COMBINES THE INMUTABLE IDEA THAT TEACHERS MUST MOTIVATE AS WELL AS TEACH WITH THE IDEA THAT THERE IS A LARGE BAG OF TRICKS (LOOSELY CALLED "SCAFFOLDING") THAT HELPS. OVER TIME, WE'LL COVER BOTH.