Choices. Choices not only promote independence, but they also require responsibility, taking ownership of one’s self-selected actions. And while life, for young and old, is full of choices, this week for students and teachers, choice gets pushed to the forefront, taking center stage. It’s grading time, which means a variety of dramatic situations will play out this week as semester one comes to a close, one of two times a year, that everyone takes a greater interest in the game. The game of grades.
For students, choice will mostly involve their willingness to muster the strength to make a final push to get ready for finals and–if possible–get make-up/late work turned in to boost their final grades. The latter generally plays out the most dramatically, for anxiety-filled students must approach stress-filled teachers asking what they can do to improve their grades. And for many kids, this presents a not-so-easy choice, for not all teachers welcome this final scene of the play, some being unwilling to even have the conversation, much less giving kids a chance, a choice. The traditional narrative, here, generally goes, “Kids have had a chance all semester long to make choices, and it’s too late now. They should have made better choices all along.” Of course, this notion is not bereft of wisdom; kids have made choices and there are consequences. But teachers make choices, too. And sometimes, often times, the consequences of our choices don’t always benefit kids.
You see, no one tells teachers what their grading policies are. There is no uniform, vetted standard that we follow to ensure fairness and equity for all students. Teachers alone decide. They have a choice; they have independence. And though one might hope that these independent choices by teachers would always have kids’ best interests in mind, it is not always so. Kids know this. Parents know this. Many parents learn this in their interactions with teachers, especially at conferences where they move from one autonomous ruler to another, discovering six different sets of rules in six different communities, six different–often starkly different–worlds, where what is and isn’t possible truly seems galaxies apart. I wonder how parents process this, what conclusions they come to. I have to guess that the whole thing seems a little off to them, and I wonder if they really understand that teachers alone make their decisions about their grading policies, that teachers have choices. And while I cannot speak to the all the choices my colleagues make, for they are their choices, I can speak to my choices.
In room 219, I choose to create a realm of possibility, a world where all things are possible, a place where kids truly have choices that are limited only by their desire to progress and improve, not limited by some arbitrarily devised grading policies that generally consider my, instead of my students’, best interests. This week–as with every week–I will choose to let my kids do, redo, re-submit, retake, and correct anything they choose. I want them to make choices and own the consequences of those choices; thus, I create a world where choice exists. This week my kids need my flexibility. It’s how I choose to conduct business. My choice.
Happy Monday, all. If you missed the Weekly Wonder yesterday regarding the fairness of our grading system, here is the link http://www.letschangeeducation.com/?p=288