Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The grades don't go with them, the learning does.

"At the end of the year, the grades don't go with them...but the learning does."

Recently, at a building meeting, I made this comment. It was meant to be a jumpstarter to conversation among professionals. It challenged some and certainly resonated with others. It meant nothing more than my personal feeling about what we needed to provide our 7th and 8th grade students before they left our building for the high school. I've challenged teachers to think about their instruction in ways that they've never thought about it before. We've worked together to implement more digital-age skills into the curriculum and daily teaching practices. I like the risks that I am seeing some educators take. But is it enough?

This truly came full circle for me yesterday when I heard Heidi Hayes Jacobs (@heidihayesjacob) say "What if we were held accountable to innovation in schools?" YES! Too often we stifle the innovative minds of our students (and our teachers in some cases) because of routine. Assigning a grade at the end of the unit, going from period 1 to period 2, etc., giving a report card at the end of the marking period 1 or 2 or 3 or... This year my wife and I are now able to access our 5th grade son's grades online. Such a bad idea for me...I have found myself more focused on his grades this year than his learning simply because I can use an app to see his grades. I have found myself fall into the trap of asking "How did you do on your test?" rather than "What did you enjoy learning most? Why?"

I'm not necessarily advocating for getting rid of these things, but if we cast aside the focus on grades and earning points (after hearing a group of 8th grade students ask the teacher this afternoon "How many points is this worth?") we truly free our classrooms to focus on teaching and learning and innovation. I look forward to the challenge of leading a building that is free to create and innovate and focus on improving the craft of teaching.

I REALLY look forward to asking my son what is the most interesting thing you read today or what challenged you most in math this week. Those answers don't have a letter grade attached to them.