Just thinking

In a perfect world, I would not have to grade students like the one today who forgot her paper and symbolic mask, but she’d had a perfectly horrible weekend. (Still, if we don’t deduct a grade for late work, they’ll take advantage of us and continue this pattern, right?) Or the one who demonstrated so well her understanding of symbolism but forgot to cite her page numbers and sources.  (Because the assignment said, CITE those page numbers, even if you are more excited about showing your understanding in other ways.) Or the boy who has lost all confidence in his writing but can explain to me the theme/plot/characterization of the book in minutes. (But if you don’t learn to write now, you won’t be able to go on to ninth or tenth grade, or you know, COLLEGE.)

In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to assess them but could sit down on the carpet tomorrow and try it again. Because sometimes learning take time, and we don’t always “get” it by 2:40 on September 28.

Actually, in my perfect world, I wouldn’t give grades at all.

I wonder if in their perfect world, they’d do the work, if they didn’t get any grades.

I’d like to think so. Hey it’s my dream, right?

5 thoughts on “Just thinking

  1. Sounds like none of them gets an A but they certainly score well for talents shown. Room for improvement makes the rest of the semester worth teaching, right?

  2. I think you are on to something, Susan. It is only human nature to game the system and do the least amount of work possible to achieve the desired outcome, carrot, or grade. Furthermore, it is impossible to tell the story of our unique learning journeys through the use of grades and teacher narrative comments. Tiny Seelig in her entrepreneurship challenges over at Stanford has noticed this as well…her challenge projects are not graded in any way, but the students that participate get deeply involved in the challenge and learn more in that experience than they do in most, if not all, classroom experiences. Dan Pink talked about this in the surprising science of motivation TED talk and Alfie Kohn has been writing about this for several years now. If we are going to imagine schools without grades, then we need to offer some more compelling possibilities. Portfolios, to me, are more compelling (and I think parents would rather see a rich collection of their child’s work over a bunch of symbols and letters ANY day). Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Would you work if you didn’t get paid? Would we wake up and get to work on time, if we didn’t risk getting fired. No, we need insentive to motivate us.
    But I like to think gradeing isn’t just a motivational tool, but a tool to show us what we are good at, and what we aren’t. Like when you get eval’d @ work.
    I was (am) like the boy. Never a good writter of my thoughts, but in the perfect world of education, one (or atleast i was at my high school and college) able to be “graded” on a variety of task, so what i personally lack in one field, I made up in another. It’s seems to me that it’s important for many areas to be created for students to be graded in, instead of one area wt. so heavily. For exp. I bombed in essays, but i shined in labs, presentations, and field work. If i was graded on just spelling.. then i been seen as an idiot, and someone else as a genius, whom maybe could spell and org the information correctly, but have not a darn idea of how to apply what they’ve learned to everyday life. SO I like to think that through gradeing one can see what there strenghts would be as a professional, and weakness. So no, i’m not and never will be a journalist (as gradeing has shown me), but i was made aware from projects and graeding that i would do well in a service area with plp. Just like gradeing will do for our students. So the one girl knows from gradeing, i’m not good at paying attention to detail, but i’m good at seeing and eval’n the over all picture. So where will my strengh best be used?

  4. Thanks for your comment, Meg. I do get what you are saying, but I wonder if we can’t help people find their passion and strength in a way without grading them. You are right. We have different strengths and I don’t want to discourage any of them in my kids:)
    (And some days I do wonder if I would work if I didn’t get paid–probably. In some form or fashion, I would because I enjoy it. I just wouldn’t work so hard!!)

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