Its been over a week now since I've blogged. We're only on post #5 and I've already broke my self-imposed, blog once a week rule. I guess that's the way it goes. I've had lots of things floating around in my head that I would like to "get onto paper" so to speak. I've decided that I'll hit a couple of those ideas today and then do some more later. The first part will be some thoughts on grading, assessment, and grade segregation based on a particular situation I am currently dealing with, and then I have a few thoughts on #edchat, #ntchat, #sschat, #mathchat, etc. that I wanted to share.
Part 1: How is our current model of assessment, grading, and grade structure by age helping our students? The quick answer is that its not. I'd like to very generally and vaguely describe a situation I'm dealing with to elucidate my thoughts on this issue. I am currently in a long term substitute teaching position. There is one student with whom I deal extensively who is having a great deal of difficulty with grade level mathematics concepts. This issue is further compounded by the fact that the student has only very basic English skills due to only having been in the US for a short period of time. This student is a diligent worker, always tries hard in class, asks for and receives both content and language support, is a real pleasure to have in class, but just doesn't seem to be mastering the grade level concepts at this point.
The way our education system is currently set up, this student is not being successful. The student may be "held back" in this subject and have to repeat the material. There is a stigma attached to this, which will likely feel like a punishment to the student. Why should that be the case? The student is doing everything they are supposed to be doing. I know from my own experience that sometimes it takes me a long time to master a particular mathematical concept. Trigonometry made little sense to me in high school, but when I tackled it again later in college, it came pretty easily. I think it was a matter of being ready for the material. Why should students be punished for something they just aren't ready to master yet?
So the big question is, what is the solution. I don't claim to have the answers, but here are a few (radical) thoughts. I think we need to move away from grades segregated by age. We all develop differently. We're all ready for different things at different times. We need to acknowledge that. Groupings should be based on where each student is in understanding and should be malleable between disciplines. We can have a student doing higher math and lower reading or vica versa. We need to structure it to take the stigma away from not being on par with your age group. Part of that is taking away the grades as we know them. Instead, lets provide relevant authentic feedback to our students. Lets let them chase their own interests and use those to introduce them to necessary skills and knowledge. Let them drive their own learning and be the guides to help them through.
Part 2: Some brief comments about #chats and why they are important to me. In many ways, I often find it difficult to view myself as a real teacher. I have never yet held or been offered a full time teaching position. I substitute teach and teach part time in an evening alternative program where the students are getting all their curriculum from a computer program. I have great interactions and many teachable moments, but it is not how I would run my classroom by choice. I love my students and have a great staff and administration to collaborate with, but I'm not really teaching the way I want to teach. For me, #chats are giving me an outlet to share my educational ideas. They help make me feel relevant by reminding me that I'm not alone in my ideas or in my less than ideal situation. I feel a part of a greater educational community. In short, I think #chats are helping to keep me from burning out. Thanks to all the people out there that I've been able to collaborate with. I really a