Midterms are over. But I worry that the mindset isn’t.
Even those of us who don’t enjoy assessment, tracking data and recording grades can get caught up in the tidal pull of measurement and the undertow of evaluation.
Well….that might be a little too metaphoric, but we ARE teachers. Since the age of 5 we’ve been playing with tests and trying to win. That is hard to let go of. Many of us were test champions and grade royalty.
(The following is my own opinion and might be considered heretic in this day and age)
I realize that we must assign grades and that students require passing grades in order to move to the next level. We have all worked hard to create systems that allow the progress our students make to be accurately reflected in the grades. Our jobs depend on it. But…in the great scope of life…
THE GRADES DO NOT MATTER. They are artificially “scores” that someone/something determined would measure value in schools. They are part of the system, BUT THEY DO NOT ACCURATELY REFLECT ANYTHING.
They certainly do not reflect value. No human being can be given a numerical value. It’s ridiculous to even think of it (although sadly, it is commonly done throughout American culture, not just in schools.)
Every moment that we see our students in terms of a number, we have lost an opportunity to see them as people.
The system, and most of the people in it, will try to change your mind about that. They will also try to convince you that YOUR value will also be determined by numbers: your students’ numbers. They will tell you that not only are students are numbers, but that we should compare students using these values. Actually, they would like us to line them up according to these numbers. They want us to believe that the students should all on the same place on a line of measurement at the same time. Finally, they tell us that the students should be moving along that measuring line at the same pace. On a day to day basis.
They are also trying to convince us that it is our job to make that happen. If we don’t, we are failures. (Yes, they use THAT word….a word we have secretly been afraid of since we entered a school at age 5)
My dear friends, that is a crock of horsepucky. All of it. Including the idea that we are special because we “earned” good grades when we were students. Grades do not make anyone special.
EVERYONE IS SPECIAL.
Its really difficult to see that. Our job doesn’t always let us remember that, even though that is an elemental part of our profession.
Please remember it.
Everyone is special and everyone is unique.
Our students are not supposed to be alike. They all enter our classes at different ages. They enter with different backgrounds and experiences. They did not learn to walk, learn to talk, learn to read their first language, learn to ride a bike, learn anything at the same rate. Why? Because while we may all be wired in the same way, we are all unique and incredibly miraculous human beings.
Have you ever seen a group of one year olds together? They are all at very different places in height, weight, ability to walk/talk etc. If they are paying attention, if they are in the classroom approximately the same number of days, they are all getting the same amount and quality of input. AND THEY WILL STILL NOT BE IN THE SAME PLACE.
Some students show growth in slow, steady increments. Others will grow in “hops”, showing improvement every two to three months….but very little in between. Others are icebergs. Everything grows beneath the surface and we see nothing…then all of a sudden BOOM! After six to eight months (or more) of nothing….amazing things are happening.
No one is really “ahead” or “behind”, despite what society might want us to believe. If the student is there, and involved, if we are providing a rich environment and comprehensible instruction, then the student is where the student is supposed to be. Period. They will move when they are ready, at the pace that is best for them. We can pay attention, and we can respond, but there is truly little we can do to change that.
And it is no reflection on us.
Hard as that is to remember.
We need to enjoy each student where he or she is….or we will lose sight of the beauty of the human brain, the human mind and the human spirit. How each and every human is unique and heart-stoppingly beautiful.
Nothing else really matters.