Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Returning policies

Right now at school, we're in the process of tying up all the loose ends to what has been a very productive and interesting academic year. As teachers try to simultaneously squeeze in one last test while preparing students for a final exam from which they know most students will end up being exempt, students are making summer plans. One of the most celebrated orders of business that students must tend to is turning in their textbooks.

A bitter-sweet thing, no doubt, this year our campus is returning to an old tried-and-true procedure for recollection: turning them into their teacher!!

The past few years, the gymnasium has been set up like a long corridor where students would bring all books to one specific class, then be released via a pre-determined schedule to the gym, where they would make their way through the "buffet" line, finding the appropriate pile for their individual textbook, and dump their cargo one book at a time. This procedure was very efficient, but it also had a few drawbacks.

First, the basketball team had to recreate in the other, smaller practice gym. Second, books inadvertently ended up in the wrong pile. For example, a student fresh out of failing his English class might put his spelling book in the Algebra I stack. Or, a lazy student might put both of the books he actually remembered to bring that day in the very first stack he saw. Third, there was no way to actually know if a student actually turned their book in. Because the books weren't scanned in as they were TURNED in, students who ended up owing $85 for a math textbook they probably never cracked could simply tell the authorities administrators that the "put it in the gym." It was creating a too convenient excuse for the apathetic, the dishonest, and the unfortunate victims of random textbook thievery.

This year, students must physically turn in their books to their respective teacher, and we teachers must document which students have and have not done this. Yes, it means more work for the teachers, but at least we don't have to go through every single page and add up a list of nickels that students owe us for every tiny stray mark or tattered pages like it used to be when I was a student, although we are still required to look for errant mustaches drawn on historical figures.

Being the collector of the precalculus and calculus textbooks for my students, this new-again procedure has afforded me the opportunity to interact individually with each student one last time before they hit the swimming pools. It also gives THEM a chance to finally write their name on the inside cover. I'm surprised how few of them ever took the time to do that originally. When I was in school, writing my name in my book was not only required, but it was like I was signing a contract for the course, making me feel a heightened sense of responsibility for its safe keeping and appropriate use. Back then, we also enjoyed looking at the long history of names that preceded ours. "Awwwww, I got a 'dumb' book," we might say if we saw that 7 years previously our neighbor down the street with the barking dogs and the appliances on his lawn had our book. "Alright!! Easy 'A' in this class," we would rejoice if we happened to get last year's Valedictorian's book.

It is interesting to see the various reactions from students as they hand over their heavy tomes of information. It's like a great burden, an immense weight has been lifted off their shoulders, and the stand a little taller afterward without their backpack weighing them down. It's also surpising how few of them even need to use the Kleenexes I offer them as they part with there "loved one." Most aren't even interested in saying their final goodbyes. I don't hear, "So long page 273, I'll miss you!" or "Adieu back-of-the-book-answers-to-odd-problems, you spent so many homework sessions with me." I don't even hear the failing student, "Adios stranger, I didn't even get a chance to know you."

What I DO hear alot, though, is "What on Earth is a book cover anyway?"

If they only knew . . .


Brenda said...

I just spent a lot of minutes trying to picture the inside of the high school. I do remember turning in my books in the gym - some of those we really never opened. Is that the bitter or the sweet part?

kwkorpi said...

Totally depends on the class, I guess. Hyperbolically,to have never opened a calculus book would have to be the most bitter, disappointing lost opportunity of a lifetime.

bob s said...

So now the students will just come up with another excuse, for instance, I turned it in after school or gave it to the teacher in the hallway and he or she forgot to write it down, and the school still will not force them to pay. No system will ever work when there are no rules or will to enforce it.

LC said...

So who gets to carry them to the bookroom?

kwkorpi said...


We haven't addressed those issues yet.


We haven't addressed those issues yet either.