We did it. We made it through the first semester of our new grading approach. One thing that I am guilty of is always waiting for a new start, just like the kids. So, even though I enjoyed the semester, I really couldn’t wait for it to end. When I started off the semester I was so hesitant on how this new way of grading was going to be for our students, toward the middle I started feeling more confident, and now that the first semester is done I know that this was the best decision I could’ve made this school year. I was ready for first semester to end only because I believe change helps us to continue to grow.
Our end of semester grading conferences were set up in a way that seemed pretty simple and to the point, but I almost immediately found out that the results were anything but simple. Each conference forced kids to take the lead and talk about what they have done in class and show how they have grown. Each and every conference was different. Each and every conversation was so important for the kids to speak and important for me to listen to.
By the end of the first day of conferences I came to the realization that I am part of something much bigger than I expected. I knew what we had begun last spring was going to be different than what I had previously done grading wise, but seeing how kids were truly able to articulate where they were at with the standards we put in front of them and how their evidence from their portfolios showed that had floored me. I felt like it was too good to be true, but the next conference day came and kids were continuing to show me that they are able to talk about their own learning in a way I never expected.
In addition to their being able to do this, we also gave them an opportunity to tell us about any suggestions that they had for our grading policy in the end that we could take into consideration. In about ninety percent of my conferences the kids ended with telling me how they were so unsure about it in the beginning, but they are now understanding so to leave it the way it is. The other ten percent of kids who had suggestions brought up very thought out recommendations that in truth we had already started considering for the next semester which just validated more that continuing to reflect and change is a good thing and having the kids help us do so is even better.
So, as one semester has ended and a new semester has begun I’m feeling energized about the changes we have made and the work we are continuing. So energized that I have decided to take on a challenge myself in taking this grading approach with all of my classes next year, not just the sophomore class. We have made changes going into second semester just as I imagine we will continue to do from week to week, semester to semester, and year to year.
Grading this way has changed how I look at every lesson, every performance, every set of notes that I put in front of my students. The work to make change is sometimes time-consuming, hard, and out of our comfort zone, but as only a third year teacher, I feel as though the change I have made this year has been for kids and makes their learning the center of my classroom. I’m so excited to continue my work with helping kids have a voice and see possibilities in their learning. Change is good.