I was married to a Special Forces soldier. SF units are typically deployed more than they are home. When they would return from a deployment, the wives would get reunification readings and messages from support organizations, and the men would have some sort of reintegration screening or discussion before returning to their families. The emotional difficulties that come with relationships when one partner or parent is away (in combat, no less) are acknowledged and addressed, at least in some manner. Explicit guidance is given on how to handle potential conflict that will come during the reintegration.
When our students return to school from a break, they have been operating by different rules and in different conditions. Depending on how well those align with the expectations and atmosphere at school, they may be uncomfortable, unwilling, and hostile to our demands when they re-enter our classrooms. Or, perhaps - and perhaps even more problematic - they may be disengaged and apathetic. Reintegration can be frustrating and full of conflict.
We returned on Wednesday from winter break, and I knew that starting a new unit immediately would not work well. I decided to do 1st semester interactive tech review activities with French 1 (Quizlet review, Quizizz formative assessment, EDPuzzle practice), which was fairly well-received. For my French 2 and 3, I wrote a 3 day mini-unit on HIVER (Winter), inspired by a free Find Someone Who...Winter Activities worksheet I saw on Teacher Pay Teacher. I had some differentiation designed for the practice and assessment, lovely Quizlet vocabulary with images, and EdPuzzles. (I will post this on my Materials page) But most of my students had simply not reintegrated yet - they were still fully in vacation mode, and apathetic to any encouragement, redirection, or staring at close range. Those who had struggled to use time effectively 1st semester were completely off-task, and while not rude, simply ignored all direction to participate in learning. Bad habits were amplified. By the end of the day, I was completely discouraged and knew I needed to change something, because they were not inclined to change habits without incentive.
The frustration forced me to examine a long-term problem: what to do with students who waste time in class, but for the sake of compliance or fear of losing "points", will try to catch up on the work the next day in class (or the next week), thus missing another day of work, falling further behind. Endless cycle of work avoidance, procrastination, irresponsibility, and working for compliance only. They do not understand that Monday's work builds the foundation for Tuesday's work, it's not about "points", but about building knowledge. This is crucial in the world language classroom. Giving them a "0" and not taking late work is the simplest solution - practice is only 10% of my grade, so it isn't catastrophic in that way - but it does not help them, and it gives them no reason to do the practice and learn.
Here is my Reintegration-inspired Reform:
1. Work not done in class during the assigned time is given a 0 or Incomplete in Class Dojo (where I do a more holistic accounting of classroom participation and engagement). Papers are collected or Google Classroom assignments have a deadline time posted. Yes, I realize this is about POINTS but...
2. Students who have not completed work may request to take home that evening to finish (must be turned in the next day), come in during their Advisory (like study hall), or stay after school to complete. It will stay a 0 or incomplete until it is finished. They will receive full credit for it once it is turned in. I WANT THEM TO DO THE PRACTICE, BUT I WANT THEM TO EITHER USE CLASS TIME EFFECTIVELY OR MAKE TIME OUT OF THEIR SCHEDULE TO DO IT! Time management and meeting a deadline are necessary skills. But notice - there is no grade penalty for it being late.
3. Students will NOT be given time the following day to complete work they chose not to do in class. I am hoping they will figure out quickly that it works best for them to engage so they can stay connected and not feel "lost".
4. I will be intentional about explaining "Assignment A (today) will prepare you to do Assignment B (tomorrow) and Assessment C (day 3)" so that students understand the PURPOSE and NECESSITY of the practice. IT'S NOT ABOUT POINTS.
5. I will communicate this plan with parents so that they understand WHY this is happening, and WHY it is important that French practice be done in French class. It's not a matter of the "points" (can you tell I hate that attitude????), it's a matter of building skills. But most parents respond to seeing 0 points in the gradebook, so hopefully this will lead to discussion at home.
6. Returning from future breaks, I will review essential expectations and practices before I ask students to work. They need reintegration training to have a successful reunion with instruction.
I'm sharing my reflections because too often we see other teachers' lesson plans, units, fantastic PBL or tech activities and we DON'T get to see the struggles that may occur in implementation and student engagement. We also need to recognize when our practices are not meeting student needs, and if we have the leeway to make policy and practice changes in our classroom, we should be responsive and reform.
Now we have a 3 day weekend because of the cold...here's hoping these new strategies get me through ANOTHER reintegration next Monday!