First quarter drew to a close this past Friday. I, along with the rest of the school, have been frantically working to find missing assignments, compile grades, and try to provide meaningful feedback with the pre-determined statements given to us. Such fun.
I've been reflecting a lot over how the quarter has gone and I must admit, I have mixed feelings. I feel like there have been some successes to celebrate, but there are still some glaring holes (glaring to me, at least) that need to be filled in.
Foremost, I am not happy with my grading policy. It worked well for me last year, but this year it is far from adequate. As I looked through my grade book, I was not happy with the number of routine assignments that found there way in as the quarter progressed. To be quite honest, I'm disappointed with my lack of diligence in grading only the meaningful assignments. This has led to inflated grades for the learners playing the school game, and deflated grades for the kids that are trying hard (in many cases) but falling short of the "standard." I need to redefine the standard. To rectify and move forward, I'm going to:
- Focus on assessing skill-based, multi-faceted work that truly displays their understanding.
- Using varied assessments to check learner growth.
- Providing meaningful feedback on everything and anything that affects their grade.
Ideally, grades would not be a part of my class. I don't feel like they're the best way to report learner understanding. But, I'm forced to work within a system and I need to do better to bridge my ideal and actual learning spaces.
Second, the learning sequence thus far (when looking back) seems disconnected and a little scattered. I'm afraid some learners are confused about where we are and how we arrived there. If they can't see what the current topic is, how can they begin to build a larger schema to accept where we're going? I'm working with younger learners this year and I need to scaffold more than I normally would. There needs to be a more prominent map of the content and how things tie in to one another to form the larger picture. I'm not sure how I'll be doing this yet, but I would like to have some kind of ongoing mind-map or learning tree that learners can refer to. We'll see.
Third and finally, I think I need to raise standards for myself. I've fallen into some habits that I'm not happy with when it comes to dealing with learners. This is probably going to be the hardest component to correct because it affects the day-to-day interaction with learners. I think I've been too loose and that has translated to my learners as "easy." I know the old adage that says "Start tough and then ease up because you can't start easy and then tough up," but that's where I feel like I am right now. I'm not easy, but I am not convinced I've pushed my learners hard enough on the important things. I need to find a way to do this in a supportive and constructive manner so I don't lose my classes completely.
I am by no means disappointed with this first nine weeks. I am happy with the progress we've made together, but there are some issues that need attention.