We do not take correction lightly, especially from students.
Well, most of the time.
OK, perhaps I was a bit harsh up there.
After all, everyone makes mistakes; unfortunately, it’s often at the most inopportune time, like when a student points out an error on the final exam.
Or when someone wants to say “But I thought [x]!”
Hint: Nine times out of ten the way a student thinks things should be is not how they actually are. But that elusive one time right keeps them going, I suppose.
So, if you’re going to prove me wrong, might as well do it in a big way, like a certain group of my seniors.
Our school participates in National History Day; this year, the theme is “Encounter, Exchange, and Exploration.” One day, these four students came to me and said
Mr. E- , we’d like to do our NHD project on Widgets.
It wasn’t really widgets; I’ve changed the name.
“Well,” I said, “You could do your project on Widgets, but you’re going to have a tough time relating it to the theme. I can guide you in your project, but I can’t just give you your project.”
So do you think we can do it?
“I don’t know, it’s going to be a lot of work and research. You might want to focus your energies on getting the actual class work done instead.”
Yes, sometimes the mean stick has to come out.
Well, it took those students almost two months to come up with an acceptable thesis, and another month to finish their basic research.
I’ll admit, looking over their project, I wondered how the NHD committee would respond.
They put time and effort into creating a wonderful exhibit, which they had to totally rebuild because it wasn’t right. Truly, it was a labor of love.
When we arrived at regional competition, only one board looked better than theirs. However, the competition isn’t just about the board; the board counts for 20% of the score, and the other 80% comes from the historical content, including an oral interview.
In previous years, projects with mediocre boards have beaten nigh-on professional projects because their research was just that good. I really didn’t want them to be disappointed.
Well, we looked at the other projects and tried to make a realistic assessment of ourselves and our competition. The group was done by 11:00 and then had to wait until 2:15 to hear the results. We’d figured maybe our group came in third or fourth, all things considered. In this particular year, five projects in their grouping would advance to state competition.
The fourth and fifth place finishers were projects not even on our radar. The third place was a project we thought for sure had finished ahead of us. My students were dejected. And then . . .
In Second Place: Widget, by . . .
Those seniors pulled off a second place finish, proving me wrong in almost the most spectacular way possible. They scored highly in all categories but four, and those easily fixed.
I’ve never seen those students excited about academics. This project was theirs, and they came in the next day excited to fix their problems for states.
One of those problems was the size of their display, so guess what? They’ll be constructing a third exhibit.
I asked them, “You do realize you’ve got to make another board, do some addition research, and miss a Saturday to go to an academic competition, right? Why are you so excited now?”
You don’t understand, Mr. E- – we never win anything. And we won. They said we were good. And we’re going to make this thing as perfect as we can because we want to win again.
You go, girls (and guys)!