What if we graded student’s effort?
What if we don’t?
What if effort does not equal mastery? How do we help students with this?
What if we graded student’s effort?
What if we don’t?
What if effort does not equal mastery? How do we help students with this?
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. This was a re-read for me. I picked it up again after quite a few years when I overheard a teacher talking about it in the hallway. I remember how much this book created my love for all things Picoult and knew it would be a great way to pass the time over winter break. It was as good as I remember – an interesting look at a school shooting and the elements at play. One of the reasons I love this book is it makes you think about the shooter’s family, in a way that you might not have before. When someone behaves monstrously, who is to blame?
I am Malala by Malala Yosafzai
I have finally started the memoir, and I am enjoying it so far. It is an interesting look into a world that I know very little of and one that is often only highlighted in certain ways through the media. I am taking this one slowly and just reading little by little.
Articles that I particularly enjoyed:
Some of my student blog posts this week:
One of my goals is to blog more regularly. To do so, I have decided to start a series called What If Wednesday as I frequently find myself asking questions related to the field of education that begin with that said question. Sometimes they will be thematic, sometimes they won’t. It’s just a series of questions that’s on my mind. Feel free to answer or share your own.
In 2015, I spent a large amount of time devoted to learning more about equity and inclusion. My work at the Multicultural Teaching Institute in Weston, MA and the National Diversity Directors Institute in Potomac, Maryland transformed me and lit a fire within. I truly am committed to making the school experience of my students a more equitable experience, but man, is it hard sometimes! It’s hard for me and it’s hard for others.
Despite my dedication and knowledge, I make mistakes. I don’t always realize when I am creating disadvantages or inflicting bias. I don’t like when people question my beliefs or behaviors. I struggle with my own privilege and often still don’t see when I am advantaged. I get frustrated with other adults who don’t see the importance of these issues or cannot admit they may have a role. In doing so, I may sometimes put them off instead of turning them on. I worry.
The one thing I have taken away through all I have read, listened to, and communicated is how much this is a journey for me and everyone else. And what I have to remind myself is though the destination may be the same, how we travel and the roads we take are very different.
I need to accept that I do not know everything yet and that I will learn more. I must remember that I may know more than others and be inspired by small growth. I have to acknowledge that this journey is one of the most difficult I will face as an educator, that failure is inevitable, and forgiveness is sacred.
All these things take courage, which is why they are so difficult. It takes courage to admit we may be prejudiced. It takes courage to admit that we are in fact biased. It takes courage to admit that not all students share the same experience and we may have a role in that. It takes courage to look deep inside ourselves and admit we may have done things wrong in the past. It takes courages to acknowledge that even when we try our best, we can still fail. It takes courage to admit we’re flawed.
But it also takes courage to not give up, to keep fighting when people are fighting you, to be willing to learn more, to be uncomfortable, to feel alone in the fight, to find solace in others, to admit you don’t know everything. To ask for help.
This year, 2016, my intention is to be courageous. Are you with me?
I had set a goal of reading 75 books this year. I did not make it – I blame the fact that I went on a close to two month reading hiatus where I just couldn’t get into reading. Oh well! I did manage to finish 56 books, listed and categorized below. I provided some commentary for the ones I could actually remember!
I’m a bit heavy on the popular fiction and am going to try to branch out a bit more next year when 75 will be reached!
Thanks to OverDrive for letting me download books for free, thus enabling me not to go broke on books this year. And thanks to Goodreads, for making it so easy to keep track of what I read! I think I got them all.
My absolute favorite books this year.
Books that made me think.
Books that reminded me what it is like to be a young adult.
Books I couldn’t stop reading.
Books I finally read. Continue reading
How to Procrastinate Part: 2
If you were able to successfully do what I said earlier, then you should be ready for the next step in the great world of procrastinating! But if not, keep on practicing the basics until you have mastered them. However if you have, continue with these next steps. First make sure that you know what you need to do because if you have many things to do, you don’t want to give yourself too little time. I would recommend checking your planner, asking people or any other way that would tell you what you need to do. I would also see if your sources agree with each other because if they do, you know that they are probably true.
Check the time while you are procrastinating so you can fully experience the procrastinating and still be prepared. I would recommend having a clock or some…
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My brother failed his first driver’s test. I, to the shock of many, did not. Although I spent a wonderful couple of months rubbing in the fact that I got my license on my first opportunity, he soon passed the test, and we were equal. Yes, equal. It didn’t matter that he failed once – his license looked just like mine. There was no mark or limitation given because he had failed once. His only restriction was the need to wear eyeglasses when driving. He could have actually failed several times before passing and nothing would have changed. What mattered is that he was able to eventually pass the test, thus ensuring that I would have to share the car I liked to pretend was mine.
The above example is a great analogy for my problems with traditional grading. Systems that grade the learning process – formative assessment – and average grades together actually penalize the learning process. What should it matter if it took five tries to understand an assignment, problem, writing technique, etc.? Shouldn’t the grade reflect the student’s learning at the end of all their work? How does averaging a grade suffice if the student has mastered the concept by the end of the unit?
Formative assessment, in particular, should not be graded. I am in complete agreement with Cathy Vatterott regarding this idea, which she eloquently argues in Re-thinking Grading. The intent of formative assessment is to provide the feedback necessary for growth, to allow both the student and teacher to see where the student is and what needs to be altered in order to progress or master the learning target. Why grade it? If we want the student to take a risk in learning, to not be afraid to jump higher, to own the fact that learning is messy, wouldn’t putting a grade on formative assessment be counterproductive?
We need to stop sending kids mixed messages. We need to stop telling them that we want them to value the art of learning itself but then evaluate every single piece of work they put forward. We need to stop grading everything. As Vatterott writes:
So although the dress rehearsal is not perfect, the only thing that “counts” is the final performance, and that is what receives the grade. The final achievement of learning is more important than the steps it took to get there.
– Cathy Vatterott, Rethinking Grading, 67
Maybe if we allowed our students to “mess-up,” if we truly gave them a low-stakes environment, they would actually be more open to taking risks in their learning and admitting when they do not know something. Maybe, just maybe, our students would actually realize that it doesn’t matter how you get there, as long as you can eventually get there.
My Dean of Faculty recently gave me a copy of Cathy Vatterott’s Rethinking Grading: Meaningful Assessment for Standards-Based Learning as I will be heading a group of faculty member examining whether our assessment practices actually support the style of teaching we are doing at my school. Although I am only a few chapters into the book, I must say it is as if Ms. Vatterott reached into my head and pulled out exactly what I have been thinking for years.
As an English teacher, I have always had a particularly difficult time using the traditional grading system as a way to assess my students. To me, putting a number grade on someone’s reading and writing ability is challenging and sometimes seems impossible. Rubrics have helped, but I struggle with the idea of putting a final grade on a piece of writing. Writing, I firmly, believe is a process. How do you put a final grade on a process? Even more difficult is evaluating creative and personal writing. How do you put a grade on a piece of poetry? On a personal narrative that a student poured her heart an soul into? How can I teach a love and passion for writing and reading through archaic evaluative systems?
More importantly, if we are out to foster a growth mindset in our students, traditional grading systems are not the way to do it. As much as we can pretend that allowing the student to re-write the D paper doesn’t affect their attitude toward learning, we are kidding ourselves. That D does nothing to tell the student how far he has come or what he has learned in the process – it is merely a reminder that they are not considered “good enough” no matter how much work and effort they placed. And if we really sat and thought about it, how often does that D just go away? Students are very quickly trapped into the grades they receive, or so it seems. Vatterott writes:
The patterns of school failure in the traditional system tend to reinforce the fixed mindset as the same students fail over and over again. As those students come to believe they’re just not smart, the mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Struggling students begin to avoid learning. “Given all this, why persist?” they say. For the struggling learner, failure feels like fait accompli – a permanent caste system for C students and below.
– Cathy Vatterott, Rethinking Grading, 31
I am eager to learn more about Vatterott’s thoughts regarding how standard-based grading can help create a shift in a student’s motivation and lead to what most of us teachers are after: working with students who value and appreciate learning and are not just there to get their name on the honor roll.
More to come!
The death of Robin Williams this week has shocked the world, and for those of us Generation Y-ers, has left us mourning the man who filled our childhoods with laughter. This tragedy, somewhat not surprisingly, has brought forth great discussion on the subject of suicide and mental illness. Although it was known that Williams had a history of depression and addiction, it is still hard for many of us to believe that a man appearing to have so much fun could also be battling such demons. The truth is, most of us do not understand depression and would not be able to easily identify or support someone who is battling the disease.
As a teacher, I certainly do not have the ability or knowledge to assess or treat one’s mental health, and I feel blessed that I am fortunate to work with an amazing counseling staff who are able to support the needs of the students at my school. I know that any concern I have about my students will be treated with great care and sensitivity, and that my students will get any help they need. I was shocked (and clearly naive) when I was at a recent conference to hear that there were schools who just received their first counselor or employed one counselor for a population of thousands. Upon further research, I was even more surprised to realize that nearly half of the states in this country do not mandate counselors in schools, and even those that do have extremely high counselor-student ratios. Considering the high rates the CDC reports of students who have considered or attempted suicide, this needs to change and change fast.
Not only must we increase the number and importance of counselors in schools, but faculty, staff, and anyone working with the child need to be trained on the signs and symptoms of depression and the warning signs of suicide. We need to talk about the difference between what might be considered “normal” behavior for a teenager and what needs to be reported. We must encourage teachers to trust instinct and provide them with information on what to do when a student confides in them. We must constantly remind them that often the best way we can help a student having difficulty is to report the information, even when the student doesn’t want us to.
Most importantly, as many people are pleading over social media right now, we must talk about depression and acknowledge the realness of the disease and the pain it often brings when left untreated, and even when treated. We need to get rid of the stigma. We need to talk openly about what it means to have mental illness and acknowledge that mental illness exists for kids. We need to take our students’ emotions seriously. We need to let students see that a visit to the counselor’s office is not punishment. We need to respect the role of our counselors and listen to their wisdom. We need to stop eye rolling when we are told that a student is depressed, anxious, or going through a difficult time. We need to remember that a student’s mental health has a significant impact on his ability to learn. We need to treat our students with mental health issues with the same care, concern, and respect as we do to those suffering from physical health issues. We need to continue the conversation even when the novelty of a celebrity death fades. We need to face reality.
I am a firm believer that with every tragedy, there is also hope. My hope is that the tragic death of a man who brought smiles to so many faces will also serve to better the lives of those suffering from a similar disease, especially for our children dealing with sadness.
10 Years. 10 YEARS! It’s amazing to think that I’ve been teaching for a decade. When I think back to the naive 22 year old I was when I embarked on my teaching career, I chuckle. 10 years of working with middle schoolers certainly will give you some perspective. It will also allow you the opportunity to learn a few things.
Here’s to the next decade!