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Here we are again, staring at the end of another school year. It’s been another roller coaster ride, though at least we were able to avoid some of the more serious issues that plagued us in the lockdown year of 2013-2014. There were ups. There were downs. Here are a few things that stand out, especially with what occurred in my corner of the school universe.

The second year of my grading changeover has been fairly successful. My long-time readers may recall that I grade everything on a four-point scale, linking my assignments to the standards that are in place for English. It’s not easy to get an A in my class since you need to exceed the standard on a number of assignments to attain that highest of grades. Students have opportunities to redo many assignments as a way of trying to master skills and keep from making those same mistakes on future assignments.

I really like this grading style. Many of my students are adjusting well to it and have taken chances to redo work and get better at skills. I have a number of the kids who will rewrite essays and clean up some of their mistakes. In theory, they shouldn’t continue to write run-on sentences or fragments and will remember to capitalize proper nouns! Students have commented that they like the chance to try the assignment again. Sometimes they had a bad day on a vocabulary test, so a chance at redemption is welcome. Many who redo work have shown tremendous improvement overall and focus better on the initial assignment so as to not have to worry about the time to try, try again.

In education, we always figure it takes three years to truly figure out all the kinks to a new system. I hope that I can really hit a stride next year with this grading philosophy; I’ve had a few other teachers inquire about it, possibly spreading it beyond my classroom.

This year was a real change since I had my daughter in class. I had to really stop and think more about what I said for fear of being even more embarrassing than usual. It can’t be easy when your dad is in front of the class, saying something that he thinks is hilarious, but might not be even mildly funny. Even worse could be when Dad loses his temper and chews people out. It doesn’t help when your father does weird voices on the announcements or sings to people in the cafeteria, but Jayna has borne the burden well. I checked with her, and she said it hasn’t been too bad, and she looks forward to having me as an English teacher again next year!

I have a few students that deserve recognition. These are kids who have stood out in very good ways and helped to sometimes shine a light in the darkness. Brooke Wobschall, as mentioned in this space before, keeps us up-to-date on the Holiday of the Day. This is the kind of person she is, adding some nice touches to help people find a little more enjoyment. Brooke has really advanced as a writer and works hard to turn in the best quality work possible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an assignment from her that was finished just to get it done.

If we gave Most Improved awards, Olivia Christopherson and Lexie Ignaszewski would garner recognition. These two 8th graders have worked hard for me from the first day of 7th grade. However, both seemed to pick it up a notch this year and really worked hard to keep getting better all the time. Both girls figured out what it took to complete work at a higher level. It may not have always resulted in exceeding the standards work, but these ladies will continue to improve, and I’m confident they’ll achieve much in high school and beyond.

Finally, I have to make note of my best writer this year. I’ve been working on a Mount Rushmore of sorts, thinking about junior high writers I’ve had who write at such a high level that I’d feel comfortable handing their writing to Mr. Weber or Mrs. Bently to grade in a junior or senior English class. I’ve had many good writers over the years. However, I haven’t had enough incredible writers to yet fill that mountainside. But this year I added a third person. The previous two were my peer here at the paper, Jessica Lutgens, and a junior this year, Jessica Nafe. Both girls would routinely blow me away with their writing. The same happened this year with 7th grader Lexi Combs. She puts so much care into every word she crafts in a story or essay and writes so smoothly already at this young age. She is destined to use writing in a career some day!

And with that, summer is upon us. I will take a deep breath, grab my chauffer’s license for my kids, spend lots of time on ballfields, and try to trim down my reading list. Here we go!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is junkettaceous, which means frivolous or worthless, as in, “There wasn’t a single junkettaceous word in her entire ten page story.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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