Differentiation Step 3: Turn class into a catalog

catalogDifferentiation Step 3: Differentiating by Interest through Credits

The course catalog, my freshman year of college, was almost as fun as a J. Crew catalog. I couldn’t fathom how many options were open to me, and the sense of choosing my own academic destiny was intoxicating.

Why must students wait until college before they can have the autonomy to choose the credits they need to meet their goals?

The most concrete form of differentiation you can employ in the classroom is to offer options to students for their major assessments. Would they like to create a poster, a NPR style radio show, or build a theme park?

There’s one problem: we all know that it takes much longer to build a theme park than it does to make a poster. Unless it’s a huge freakin’ poster.

How to solve that problem?


creditcatalogCreate a table where you delineate how many credits a student can receive for a certain kinds of work, and what grade is possible by amassing a certain number of credits. Click here for an example.

Caveats

  1. You must provide models of excellence and a few sub-par models and students must articulate what they see as the difference. They need to own what they’re getting into when they choose a certain project type, and many an amateur film-maker rued the day they chose to do film, even though it earns more credit; film can be a time consuming burden for a student who doesn’t love working on it.
  2. Tag models of excellence each year to update the student model portfolios. Yes, the first year is hardest. (I created a few of my own models the first time I allowed certain modalities.)
  3. When a student chooses to aim for less than an A (this tends to be more acceptable at the high school level where student autonomy is more encouraged), it might be wise to meet with his/her advisor (or send a note home) to make sure other responsible adults are in the know. In truth, this type of choice can be a “canary in the coal mine,” and help you find students who need more support and encouragement. They would know if this is a) someone about to fall through the cracks or b) someone who is on three teams and the school play, being responsible and realistic with time-management.

You may want to read Part 1 and 2 on Differentiating in Baby steps, here.

Helping Students Get Ready for an Essay: Outline Peer Review

lolcat paperOne of the biggest problems with teaching students to write a paper is that students need to learn about a million skills – usage, style, grammar, syntax.

But if the essay argument is unclear or undeveloped, or the paper “through-line” – the flow of the argument – is unclear, the whole paper is shot.

How can you harness the power of peer review to get a paper’s “through-line” set before students take a swing at a first draft?


1. Give students an outline of the paper.

2. Ask students to write a thesis, supporting point 1, and supporting point 2 section, each with one piece of textual support.

3. Put them in groups of 3 or 4. I suggest Mr. Mater’s amazing Super Grouper for randomizing.

4. Give them 20 minutes to review the 3-4 outline(s). If the logic is unclear, they must clarify. If the supporting point is invalid, they must find a better one.

6. Before sending them off, explain that the group gets the grade of the weakest outline. Teach about the value of peer-mentoring, and the idea of win-win collaboration.

7. After class, grade each outline. If the paper will be worth 100, grade the outline as a separate 10 point assignment. This will not damage anyone’s grade, but will incentivize careful peer review.

8. The next day, you can give them a chance to fix any member of their group’s outline to lift the collective grade!

Better Outlines + Peer Review = Better Papers and Better Learning!


For more on the power of offering students an outline, click here!

Learning to Differentiate Part 2: Getting your feet in the Differentiation Kiddie Pool

You may want to read Part 1 on Differentiating in Baby steps, here.


loldumplingsThe main books on differentiation are by Carol Ann Tomlinson; she stresses that you must enter into differentiating your classroom slowly, trying one small thing at a time.

The problem with this very true statement is that, well, it’s sort of like the first time I went out for Dim Sum as a 17 year old. The adult friend of my parents said, “You can’t try everything, so just pick a few things and see what you like.”

But everything looked scary. I needed a place to start.

So too with that great, mysterious Dim Sum Dumpling of Differentiation in the Classroom: I’d like to offer you a great way to start.


Differentiate by Pace – Solve a Behavior Problems at the Same Time

masterlockHere’s the scenario: students have an assignment in class. It might be solo, it might be in groups. What do they do when they’re done?

Here’s what I used to do: tell the students that they must tell me when they’re done with their assignment. Then, while supervising their work, I’d try to drum up some extra work for them to do if they finished early. Invariably, however, a couple of students would finish their work way too fast, and initiate WWF-style wrestling matches in the back of the classroom.

Me-as-beginner-teacher: “I told you to tell me when you were done!”

Student: “But there were only 18 minutes to the end of class.”

Me-as-beginner-teacher: You can learn a lot in 18 minutes!

Student: You can’t learn anything in 18 minutes.

Me-as-a-beginner-teacher: Oh, you need to meet my friend TED. TED would totally disagree.


It was a lost battle. The student had unplugged. Net result: I disciplined the student. The student sulked for a week. Lose-lose.

More problematic than Sulky-Student-Syndrome is the fact that this student who finished early a) might have burned through the work early as an incentive to slack off for 18 minutes, and b) Might have gone on to learn (or produce) great stuff if I’d planned ahead.

Solution 1: ANCHOR ACTIVITIES

cloudTomlinson speaks about “Anchor Activities” in her books: specified, ongoing activities that students can start class with or return to after completing work. It keeps them “anchored” in learning – preventing drift and preventing back-of-class-melee-combat.

As you can imagine, it needs to be interesting enough to draw idle students to it, but it must be educationally sound.

The IDEAL and the REAL

Ideally, the anchor activity would be deeply meaningful, build a skill-set, and engage the student in a long-range product. BUT…that’s sending a new teacher back to burn-out-territory. Let’s find a balance between Anchor Work that’s easy to create, fun to do, and that will not require you to design two units instead of one.

My suggestions:

VIDEO REVIEW

  1. When you design each unit, comb Youtube for thoughtful videos thematically related to that topic. Assemble links to videos in a Googledoc or in a binder (you can use bit.ly or tinyurl.com to rename the links with helpful titles instead of URL http:gobbledygook). Students can pick and watch videos and can choose from the activities below (which you can set up, based on what you have the bandwidth to supervise / teach)
  2. Write a short editorial on what you saw. For example: what resonates with you? What do you object to?
  3. Use provided art supplies to create a poster, children’s book, or collage on the theme of the video.
  4. Use an online source like Pixton, Toondoo, Powtoon, or GoAnimate to share your thoughts or experiences on the theme.

BLOG REIVEW

1. Comb blogs related to popular-science magazines for articles thematically-related to the unit; bonus points if the article is a little controversial. I teach literature, so I look for Pyschology Today articles, making for interesting reading – especially when the articles are about teenagers, and students may vehemently disagree with the premises! Here are some ideas:

  1. Student reads the article and writes a response to the author: do you agree or disagree with certain claims the author makes? Thank the author for helpful ideas, and suggest alternate ways of understanding teens’ experiences in areas where you disagree.
  2. Each student keeps a blog in which s/he writes editorials on the articles s/he reads.
  3. Student keeps a journal – written or comic strip form – and writes about his/her own experiences in regards to the topic.

HOMEWORK INCENTIVE

Finally, if I don’t have time to arrange anchorwork or I choose not to, students can move on to homework when they finish their classwork.

On the one hand, this was always my preference (certainly over WWF wrestling), but here’s the catch. I used to just say (over and over, in fact), that when students were done, they should do homework.

template

A Template For Lesson Planning: Includes Anchorwork and Homework

But before, I didn’t use a lesson-plan template like this: I post this template each day on the class calendar, and if there is no anchorwork, I write, “See homework.” (For more on how I use templates, read my post here,)

Now, students see it. It’s real.

Finish your work early, and you’re are accountable for the next step. Even if it’s just homework.

No more WWF Wrestling.

Differentiation in Baby Steps, Part 1: Don’t Differentiate Yourself Into Insanity

differentiate cartoonHave you ever seen this cartoon before?

I have — about two dozen times, and it frustrates me; it’s often the first slide in a presentation on differentiated instruction in the classroom , and while yes, it makes a point, it raises some serious concerns.

If I understand the logic: the goldfish should not be asked to climb a tree. Let her, um… do a modern interpretive swim.

The idea behind differentiated instruction is simple: different students have different abilities and limitations, and rather than expect all students to learn and to work in the same way, we should tailor our teaching, assignments, projects, and assessments to be as inclusive as possible. (For in depth reading on differentiated instruction, check out some books by the guru, Carol Ann Tomlinson. She’s written a book on about every angle you can imagine – from problem based learning to focusing on the humanities.)

Sounds good, right?

I’d like to complain about this cartoon, however, and in doing so, make a couple of points to help new educators step, in a balanced way, down the path of differentiating in their classrooms.

burnoutThe First Caveat to the Cartoon: A burned-out teacher who differentiates is worse than a healthy teacher who doesn’t… yet.

The cartoon suggests something which, in the ears of a well-intentioned, eager, beginner educator, can result in disaster: if you don’t differentiate, you might as well be asking a fish to ride a bicycle. Or climb a tree.

This is a problem; while the premise of differentiation is simple, the execution is beyond complex. A teacher can tweak any element of the students’ class experience in numerous ways – from daily work to the final project.

This creates great opportunity! Hooray!

This also can create mental and physical collapse for the beginner educator.

kittenMy first two years of teaching, I never knew when enough was enough: staying up late enough. Familiarizing myself with enough texts. Including enough activites. Designing enough adventures. Two o’clock in the morning, in the blue glow of my computer, still dissatisfied with the unit plan, I would shake my fists at the ceiling and yell, “How is a mere mortal to teach?!”

That is not a sustainable model for a career of teaching.

And that was before differentiation came to town.

The Second Caveat to the Comic: Students are cats

3catsThe second caveat to the comic is that a room full of students is generally not a monkey sitting next to a horse sitting next to a goldfish. It’s more like… three different kinds of cats. One is the jumpy cat which zings under a bed when you walk into the room, the second is the cat that won’t get up off your lap even when you stand up, and the third enjoys raking his claws across every cloth surface he can find, including your shins.

Yes, students are unique. Yes, you should take steps, when the time is right, to learn differentiation. Yes, eventually, you will include many forms of differentiation for many types of cat.

Learning to reach the next plateau of any life stage involves discovering that it’s much more complex than you ever would have expected. No worthy growth goal can be tackled in a single, frenzied dash.

karatekidAs my most significant teacher mentor once said, “Daniel-san. First learn walk. Then learn fly.”

Then, learn climb tree.


To continue to Part 2 on this series, click here.

Polling and Voting in Class: 5 Great Ways to Increase Student Participation

voting cat

This post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.


In a survey of technology for newcomers, I mentioned Poll Everywhere for beginning-of-class polls. Here are 5 ways you may want to try using polls in class.

Note 1: Poll Everywhere is free and for students answering, anonymous. They can answer from laptops, tablets, or even cell phones! And their reactions to the polls, in my experience, are surprisingly energized and energizing. It’s fun for them to see their vote counted on the shifting bars, and it gives you a “meta-text” to discuss – not only the student’s reaction to a text or an event, and also, students’ reactions to the reactions!

Note 2: I suggest using Polls as the final step in a FTW (First Thing Work). I’ll spare you the details of each question. Read them for approach, rather than for specific content.

Note 3: In every case, you can:

A: Ask for students to explain their own answer, in discussion or partners.

B: Ask for students to speculate about why the class as a whole answered with whatever trends they answered.


Example 1: “In the video you watched as homework, Darren Brown did some pretty amazing things in a small town in England. Which of these most closely matches your reaction?”

  1. It was inspiring.

  2. It was appalling.

  3. It was somewhere in between.

  4. Something else.

Then, for 5 minutes, students explain their answer in writing. Then, discuss why students wrote what they wrote.


Example 2: I found today’s review session games:

1. Helpful, fun, and worth doing.

2. Helpful but not fun. Try a different approach.

3. Fun but not helpful. Try a different approach.

4. Hated it.

5. Something else.

Then, offer the chance for students to comment.


Example 3:  I found today’s all school assembly:

  1. Interesting and relevant to my life.
  2. Interesting but not relevant to my life.
  3. Relevant to my life but not interesting.
  4. Neither interesting nor relevant.
  5. Wasn’t there.
  6. Slept the whole time.
  7. Offensive.

Then, offer the chance for students to comment.


Example 4: Is your relationship with your parents:

  1. Almost always harmonious.

  2. Mostly harmonious with periods of conflict.

  3. Mostly conflict with periods of harmony.

  4. Almost always full of conflict.

  5. Something else.

Then, offer the chance for students to comment.


Example 5:  Did you find the narrator in the story:

1. Mostly sympathetic?

2. Mostly unsympathetic?

3. Right down the middle?

4. Didn’t read it. Life is busy, yo!

Then, offer the chance for students to comment.

“If this was my project…” : Using Pooled Resources for peer feedback and evalution

The first slide of a student's presenation

A slide from a student’s presentation

This post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.


This is part 2 of a mini-series on Pooled Resources / Individual Collaboration. For part one, click here.


Let’s say that you come up with a cool project for class.

Say: Design and build (using computer drafting programs or 3d craft and found materials) a monument to be placed in the Mall in Washington DC for something that has affected American society during your lifetime.

1331Let’s say you teach all the concepts of brainstorming and bouncing ideas around – planning, building, revising – getting feedback. The whole shebang.

Now what? You grade it with a rubric?

Sure. You can do that.

I have a better idea:

boothHave students link to their projects on a shared class document – either to a photo, a screenshot, or to whatever online link brings a visitor to the students’ work – along with a document providing a “tour” of their project, an explanation.

Next, assign an essay that requires students to explore a topic, where a component of the analysis requires them to review their classmates projects and, choosing 2-3 from below:

A. Compare / contrast / critique various projects’ details, approach, and / or themes, statements

B. Riff off ideas begun by various projects

C. Suggest changes the artist could (hypothetically?) make to make a more effective piece – using the phrase: “If this was my project,” I would ______.

Additional Notes:

1. Students may analyze their own buildings; include a slightly adjusted set of prompts for this.

2. This allows even students who bomb the project to recover and learn from the unit.

3. Knowing that others students will see their work is an incentive to create a polished piece of work!


Collaboration With Accountability: Pooled Responses, Individual Assessments

poolThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.


Here’s the conundrum:

You’ve composed a prompt for an assessment. It has many possible answers – and many ways to succeed.

That’s good!

But some students, sitting at home, alone, will have trouble formulating a quality response.

Take this quick quiz to see if you should use Pooled Responses, Individual Assessments: 

1. Do you encourage team-work?

2. Do you feel that the best ideas are piggybacked on other good ideas?

3. Can you use a computer?


pool3

If you answered YES to all three, then you should use Pooled Responses, Individual Assessments. Here’s how:

1. Present the prompt in class.

Be sure the prompt is complex, has many possible solutions, and is relevant to the Essential Questions / Enduring Understandings of the unit.

2. Have students individually write 3-4 answers / solutions to the prompt.

3. Students partner up and together, they choose from their (now) 6-8 responses their agreed-upon top-three.

4. Students write these 3 solutions / responses in a grid in a Google Doc, accessible to the class.

5.  At home, students will be able to review a dozen or more solutions. Rather than create ex-nihilo, they can modify and build a complete response based on the best of the best.

In other words, they have pooled the resources of thoughtful solutions, but it will be up to each individual to identify and analyze the best responses.

Caveats:

1. Students must quote the ideas’ authors by name (and are permitted a note card if the assessment involves an in-class essay).

2. Students may quote the idea verbatim, but must put it in quotes.

3. Students will still have to 1) explain the idea in his/her own words, 2) justify the idea with proof texts and additional support.

4. You could even require students to pull at least one idea from his/her own partner session, and decide whether to support or critique a classmates.

Ultimately, Pooled Resources / Individual Assessments sends the message that while each student is responsible for his/her own work, progress and learning takes place as a result of the collaborative efforts of many people.

Hmmm. Sounds like real life…


For part 2 on Pooled Resources / Individual Accountability, click here.

Defusing Unnecessary Conflict / Avoiding Power Struggles With Your Students

assembleThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app, Class Dojo.


Sometimes, students will resist instructions because something is immoral or unethical. This is good. As a first year teacher, a student called me out for mocking a regional accent. I was defensive at first, but she was absolutely right.

But sometimes, students resist because that’s what they do.

In some cases (like class policies), as long as the policies are thoughtful, your best bet is to listen and then use some sort of formula like, “Well, unfortunately, in our school, a hall pass is not a choice. Please use it.”

In other cases, however, student resistance can undermine a learning goal: suddenly, you’re locked in a battle with a single student about a concept that is not even the point of a lesson. And everyone is getting annoyed.

Here are three classic case-studies of how to defuse student resistance. All three draw from a simple fable: a tree and a reed argue about their relative strength – but when the storm winds come, the stubborn, brittle tree is uprooted. The reed bends with the wind.

treePre-warning, affirming, joining – and redirecting:

The scenario: you are studying a story where a character exhibits behaviors, traits, or values the students will find objectionable, but it’s beyond the scope of that class to get distracted by those objections.

The solution: warn the students before they read that they will not like some of the things they see. Tell them that their objections are founded and justified. Join with them in agreeing that the behaviors are problematic.

Then, say, “However, we’re going to put those objections in the parking lot. We may get around to them. But we may not. Our goal is not going to be taking Character X to task for how he acts, which is pretty bad, we have to admit. But our goal in this particular class is to look at the circumstances that led him to those behaviors.”

If a student, mid-discussion objects to Character X’s behavior, reaffirm:

“Exactly, and that’s what I meant when I said that there were problematic things about that Character. I wish we had a whole class to dig into that, but I’m afraid it’s beyond the scope of this lesson. So, back we go to the historical circumstances.”

Set up the resistance as a straw-man and then “pretend” the best:

The scenario: a new policy in the school has raised student ire. You feel that students have complained enough about the unfairness of the new policy. You want them to reflect on the potential benefit of the new policy and not turn your allotted five minutes into more griping.

orpheusThe solution: in your question or prompt, suggest exactly what the students are likely to have concluded, and then redirect:

“The new policy is either total hoo-hah, designed to put you into a prison for your minds, or perhaps it speaks to a conflict of two real values that we can probably agree are both important.  For the moment, let’s just pretend that the rule is not designed simply to take away your rights and make you miserable. What might have been the intent of the principle when she composed the new policy?”

Affirm frustration, relieve the student of needing to argue further, and offer a new option:

The scenario: a student has missed a deadline and has a lousy grade as a result. She has come to argue with you about the grade. You want her to stop fixating on the grade and think constructively about the future.

The solution: meet the student where she is, and paint the picture about what’s coming down the road.

You: “Look, tell me if I’m not getting you. You felt like you put in a ton of work on this step of the project and the deadline ruined your grade, right?”

Student: “Right.”

You: “And it’s a bummer because why should the deadline affect the grade for the product, right?”

Student: “Right.”

You: “So look, on the one hand, I don’t expect you to love the late-policy of this class. That’s not your job as a student. You being upset about it makes total sense. If I were you, I’d probably be upset, too. But my job is to have policies that are fair and consistent. That’s what I’m expected to do as a teacher, and the policy can’t change. And we may not see eye to eye on that, but we’re going to need to be okay with that. But more importantly, my job is to help you move past this setback and plan for how the next phase of the project is going to go, and make sure it’s a huge success.


Connect to Others, Protect Yourself: Develop Your Professional Persona

mepersonav3This post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app,Class Dojo.


Teenagers are among the most interesting people on earth, combining paradoxes in fast succession:

  • They are oddly predictable and unusually unpredictable at once.
  • They are idealistic, able to wish for a better world with a zeal many adults cannot fathom – but they’re unbelievably cynical about even the smallest thing.
  • They are passionate and emotional and also can put up emotion-squelching walls that nothing can pass through.
  • Working with them can be exhilarating. Working with them can be devastating.

How can a non-teenager connect to teenagers – visiting their world for inspiring, aiding, supporting and encouraging — for teaching — without being sucked into the chaos and instability?

Create a persona.

Practice it.

Rely on it.

Now, let me begin with what a Persona is not.

  • A persona is not “being fake.”
  • A persona is not “inauthentic.”
  • A persona is not a “mask.”

On the other hand, a persona is:

  • Your best self.
  • A professional identity that can defer your own needs — and focus on children’s needs.
  • Endlessly positive, endlessly patient.

Is this possible?

It is. On the one hand, this isn’t different from what professionals do all over the world, every day. If you’re a barista at a coffeeshop, the fact that you detest the ever-popular triple-double-decaf-halfcaf is irrelevant. You’re there to make drinks to order.

If you’re a zoo keeper, the fact that you prefer pangolins to penguins is irrelevant. It’s feeding time for both.

On the other hand, some careers require a deeper-dive into the persona.

Stand-up comics: the moment they become frustrated or angry with their audience is the moment they’re booed off-stage.

Therapists: the moment they demonstrate their boredom with the client’s complaining is the moment they lose their client – and deservedly so.

Teachers: the moment their frustration with teenager’s admittedly frustrating behavior becomes evident is the moment they lose the respect of the students. It’s the moment they undermine their own potential to teach.

Your persona is your voice-box. Your buffer. Your shield. It’s the point of contact between you and the children. It’s the difference between Evan Wolkenstein and “Mr. Wolk.”

When I enter the school, I am Mr. Wolk. You can find your persona, too. Maybe our personas can have lunch.


Persona Dos and Don’ts:

Do:

  • Not a good persona.

    Not a good persona.

    Dress the part. Wear something nice every day. Show that you respect your profession, you respect the students, and you respect yourself. For more on the power of a great outfit, check out my blog, Style For Dorks!

  • Reflect on the kind of traits you’d want for someone teaching a child close to your heart. Write about them, talk about them, and look for them – in other people, in movies, in books, and on the street. Practice and emulate.
  • Do develop phrases and mini speeches to help you communicate potentially frustrating messages in a non-emotional way.

Example One: “I just want to remind everyone that this is quiet work time. If you’re talking with your neighbor, now is the time to refocus back on your work.”

Example Two: “I just want to remind everyone that this class is for this class only. If you are [working on homework for another class, passing a note, surfing the net on your phone], it’s time to stop.”

Example Three: “I just want to remind everyone that when I say it’s worktime, it’s not a good time to start a conversation. I’m looking for people to move quickly into work groups.”

Bottom line: You don’t have the brain-space to be creative – and you can’t afford to be reactive. So memorize a nice, little speech, and if you need to repeat it – or say it louder – or call a student’s name and then repeat the speech, so be it. My tip: start your speech with, “I want to remind everyone that…”

For a deeper dive, check out my blog post and animated cartoon, here.


Don’t:

  • Don’t Boast or complain about anything in your life. This is not about you. It’s about the students. That said, disclosure as a way of connecting to students and teaching is acceptable – as long as you never share anything private. Be reflective as you share about the message you are sending. The line is blurry one, so play it safe. If it feels weird to talk about it, it’s probably weird for them to listen to it.
  • Don’t Drop your persona when a student comes to you for a one-on-one on an emotional subject. That’s the time to be your most patient, kind, collected, and professional. Sharing your own pain on any subject isn’t helpful to the student. Being a kind, comforting, professional presence for the student is.
  • Don’t Confuse mock debates for actual debates. Argue about the superiority of the Rolling Stones vs. The Beatles. Do not argue about politics, religion, or personal values.
  • Don’t Drop your persona when you think students are not listening. Gossiping in the cafeteria with other teachers, cracking crass jokes – the students will see it. And it will undermine their trust.
  • Don’t Yell. Ever. There has never been a time when I yelled and didn’t regret it afterwards. Speak clearly, speak truly – and be controlled.

Getting Hesitant Students to Meet With You: A Great Solution

lolcat calendarThis post was originally featured on Thought Partners, a blog for educators, hosted by the excellent classroom behavior management app,Class Dojo.


The worst thing is… a student not getting the help he needs.

The worst thing is… a student going from struggling, to drowning, because she lets a small problem become a big problem.

The worst thing is… a student letting go of the chance to correct mistakes because of the hassle.

That’s a lot of worst things. But they happen way too often.


Here’s how I dealt with this for eleven years:

  • I lectured students on the need to meet with me, especially when things don’t go well.
  • I told students to meet with me.
  • I told parents to tell students to meet with me.
  • I threatened students who wouldn’t meet with me.
  • I exacted consequences on students who should’ve met with me but didn’t.

bowties

Q: Wait a minute… the author of magnetiCClassroom.com is also the author of StyleForDorks.com? A: Click the pic…

Here’s what happened: students who had the proclivity to ask for help would meet with me and would thrive. Students with social anxiety, who were afraid of my bow ties, or who were too dang busy would not meet with me, and they paid the consequences.

What did those students learn about the importance of meeting with a teacher? Probably nothing.

Then, there was the other side of the problem. Students would email to ask if they could meet.

Email 1: Student: Dear Mr. Wolk. Can we meet to go over my project?

Email 2: Me: Sure. When are you free?

Email 3: Student: A block and B Block.

Email 4: Me: I teach A, B, and D.

Email 5: Student: How about Lunch?

Email 6: Me: I’m free Tuesday and Wednesday.

Email 7: Student: Wednesday Lunch works. See you then.

That process would take 2 days.

Then, on Wednesday, I would sit at my desk during lunch, until 2 minutes before the bell rang. And that’s when the student would show up to review his project.

OR: When I was free during students’ study halls, half of the period would pass, and then three students would show up at the same time.

I wanted to teach students that when you’re in crisis, you should ask for help. But asking for help was inconvenient for everyone. A pain in the butt. Time consuming and cumbersome. A headache for the student and for me.


There had to be a better way…

  • A way for a student to access my office-hours calendar – in class, immediately after a confusing review session, right when the panic and anxiety hits.
  • A way for the student to offer me two times, and where I could pick the most convenient one.
  • A way for students to reserve 5 – 20 minute blocks which wouldn’t be “poached” by another student dropping by.
  • A way for multiple students to fit into one 55 minute period.
  • A way for me to approve or request a reschedule while on the go – from my phone.
  • A way to sync appointments with my own Google Calendar and with my school’s Outlook system.
  • A way for me to survey all the times a student has met with me, to include as feedback on ClassDojo.

Schedule Once

As it turns out, there is. Schedule Once – I used the trial free account, then upgraded (gladly) to the pro account. It’s worth it.

I have more students visiting than ever before, but in a more orderly, dependable way. A student who panics when receiving a low grade on a test knows exactly what to do: make an appointment, now. They are empowered. And everyone’s happier.

It’s a good thing.