This morning I spent time with one of the most amazing people on Earth, Anne Doelman. We discussed a whole variety of ideas related to education, but she asked me a question that not many people do. She asked how did my thinking get to where it is now? We share similar views when it comes to education, but as she pointed out, it’s fascinating how we have taken different pathways to arrive at a similar point on the journey. I explained my thinking at the time, but upon further reflection, some other experiences have shaped me.
I have mentioned before that I come from a teaching background and that has had a profound impact on my teaching, but in the last few years, it’s been more of a realization that what I was doing, just doesn’t seem to make sense. Asking students to think about texts in the same way (or getting frustrated when they Googled those ideas since many of them are repeated year to year), having them think about ideas that are difficult for them to conceptualize (racial segregation in the Southern US in To Kill A Mockingbird when we are in Ontario), and the realization that very few students go on to study English at the post secondary level are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to why I’ve developed some of my views.
In some ways though, I’m currently feeling disillusioned with the education process. We have just had midterm report cards go home and in all honesty, I am not a fan of grades. I feel like all they do is take the emphasis off learning and that is the heart of my classroom. In WRDSB, we have our AER document with the focus on triangulating grades, but I’m worried that in many cases, it’s still the products that are winning out as the driving force behind a student’s mark. Don’t get me wrong, I love the AER and triangulation and use both extensively when preparing each student’s grade, yet I worry I’m in the minority. Why is it that at secondary we don’t put a lot of stock into a conversation with a student? Why aren’t we incorporating their contributions to class discussions in their grade? But in actuality, I’m wondering why do we still focus on grades? The argument that “it’s for university” is getting old. I think in many cases it’s just easier to rely on the products and the rubrics to demonstrate as “evidence of learning”. They cover us if we need to defend a grade, but I still can’t help but wonder what our classrooms would look like if we only gave descriptive feedback…
Of course we would get push back, but if it’s best for students, parents and students will come around. (Mine are already there.) In my humble opinion, it’s a battle worth fighting.