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Venturing Beyond the Familiar: Project 180 Guest Post



“I had to because it’s what was familiar to me when I was trying to keep my head above water during those first couple years.  It wasn’t until a few years later, when I moved into my own classroom, that I started to realize that the familiar was not best for my kids.”  

 

Nine years ago I walked through the doors at Cheney High School.  As I stepped into my classroom, with bags of school supplies and a bundle of nerves, I thought about the things I knew.  I knew I was excited to teach Language Arts.  I knew I was thrilled to be working with kids outside of coaching. I knew, as a brand new 23-year-old teacher, I did not know everything.  And that last thought forced me to think about the things I did not know at that time.  I did not know the value and importance of relationships.  I did not know how to grade my students.  I did not know how different year nine would look from year one.  

Yes, I went to college, have two degrees, and countless hours of information.  But there was never a time during those six-and-a-half years when someone said to me, “This is what your grading policy should look like”. So, by default, I went back to what I knew, which meant I graded my students the way I was graded when I was in school.  To be honest, I think I had to because it’s what was familiar to me when I was trying to keep my head above water during those first couple years.  It wasn’t until a few years later, when I moved into my own classroom, that I started to realize that the familiar was not best for my kids.  

Luck?  Fate?  Not sure.  Maybe both.  My new room was next to my colleague, and now my friend, Monte Syrie.  And while this brought about an endless supply of short jokes (which still continues to this day), I started to witness some grading do’s and don’ts that peaked my interest.  It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to start incorporating these into my own grading policies.  I was at a place where I wanted to try something new. If there was something out there that might be better for my students than what I was currently doing, why not?  If it didn’t go as planned, reflect and do better.  If it was successful, reflect and do better.  Regardless, I was fairly confident there would be buy-in because of the open, honest, comfortable, and transparent relationship I strive to create with each of my students.

Since then I have kept those changes.  To name a few I give a 50%, rather than a zero, on any assignment or assessment not turned in. I allow retakes on an assessment as many times as a student wants.  Missing work can be turned in at any time, until the last day of the semester, with no penalty.  But, as we all know, nothing stays the same forever.  

And now, after watching and talking with Monte as he ventured through his Project 180 journey last year, and realizing I was once again at a point where I wanted to try something new, I have decided to also adopt the select-and-support approach to grading as well.  I am excited to embark on this journey with him.  I am excited to see how it goes.  I am excited to see what we learn.  

Here we go!

Project 180 Contributor, Jenna Tamura. Jenna is the ELA department chair and teacher at Cheney High School. You can follow her @JennaTamura on Twitter.

 



One Reply to “Venturing Beyond the Familiar: Project 180 Guest Post”

  • My heart is bursting with pride for the amazing work you are doing and the bravery you are displaying to step away from the typical. How fortunate you are to have a colleague who is willing to embrace change and to include you in this journey. You are an inspiration to me!

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