Though the cat is out of the bag, most of my colleagues do not know what my plan is for next year. A few who are closest to me know, and we have had and continue to have conversations around my two-year plan to turn grading upside down in 219 and maybe beyond. A few others also know because they read my posts, but we have yet to have a conversation. Why? Well, if I had to guess, I would suggest because it’s not going to be an easy conversation. And I understand. This move is not only going to affect that and those in my own little puddle; it is also going to send ripples across the pond that is Cheney High School. Very few will understand, much less accept, what I am doing. The vast majority will see it as an affront to their own practices, taking personally my actions, which will no doubt lead to my isolation, shunned and despised, even by those to whom I am close. And though I will try to reassure them that it is nothing personal, and I will try to explain my journey, they will not care to see my intent, only my actions, actions which will upset the apple cart.
Anticipated Objection #3: You can’t do this. It will make life hard for the rest of us, causing kids to question and challenge our grading practices, devaluing our grading system and all that it stands for. A’s must be earned, not given.
Reasoned Response #3: We should want kids to question and challenge what they do not understand. Shouldn’t we? Yes, I am challenging traditional grading practices as an impediment to learning. What if instead our mantra became learning is earned, not given?
- Questions don’t hurt. If kids have questions, we should have answers. If we don’t have answers, then we should seek to find them, or at least let kids know that we are trying to find them. I, though people will perceive it differently, do not have the answers. I am seeking answers to help enhance and deepen learning in my classroom. As such, I expect questions, lots of questions over the next two years. I will have to answer for much. I expect and accept that as part of the process. Questions are crucial.
- Traditional grading practices must be challenged. As I have said time and again, our traditional grading practices are born of little more than chance and convenience. No real rhyme or reason. No checks and balances. Teachers do what they want and how they want. Yes, I, too, am exercising my autonomy, but all eyes will be on me–even those who fail or desire to see. And I will be held to account. Some will want to see me fail. They need me to. And that will be fuel to my fire.
- Learning is earning. Okay. I get it. I am giving an “A,” giving that which I have uttered over and over in my career must be earned and not handed out. Thus, I am a walking, talking hypocrite, going against my former convictions and sullying conventions that I have long supported. But I am giving an A to open doors, to remove what I believe stands in the way of true learning: grades. I am willing to take a chance for the next two years to learn about learning. My giving an A is a conciliatory move on my part to ensure that I don’t make kids suffer from my crazy quest. In the end, any grade can be given, and in many cases–sadly–they are. Learning cannot be given. It is always earned. If I take grades off the table, learning is all that remains. But it is not mine to give. I can only give one thing: opportunity. The kids have to “earn the learn.”
At the risk of being even more melodramatic than I have already been, this move will ruin some relationships. And that’s too bad. This is not something I am doing to my colleagues. This is something I am doing for my kids. My hope is that it would be perceived as nothing other than.
Happy Wednesday, all.
- Rachael’s Recommendation: Their Thoughts, April 19, 2016
- “A” Stands for Accountability: Morning Minutes, April 21, 2016