June 15th

Posted June 15, 2018

In grade 7, students wrote some “rants”, borrowing the style from Rick Mercer (http://www.cbc.ca/mercerreport/). This is one of the ways by which teachers make learning authentic! This student’s rant was excellent in that it has great voice and it captures some good ideas regarding some popular themes in education and society in general. It inspired me to write a blog (which I have done before on occasion). Here is Jamie’s text published (with the author’s permission of course):

Grades Rant

People have been receiving marks for centuries – what makes this generation so special?  In fact, everything about this generation has to be special doesn’t it?

This is the participant trophy generation where every kid wins even if they can’t tie their shoes.  When did we become allergic to competing? We can’t all win and that is how millionaires get made and prime ministers get elected.

We need something to strive for – I would rather work for A’s than a “good job, buddy”.  My parents have high expectations and for good reason – they want me to be successful.

I want to be successful too.  I want to get into a good university and become an engineer.

So how are we, the next generation of students expected to apply to university without grades?  Will we submit the comment “plays well with others”?

How will universities possibly decide who to let in? Johnny with a strong “applies himself well” or Janet who “always shows up to class prepared”.  

And we all know that comments are going to lead to a hierarchy anyway.  Sooner or later we will develop a code that says “good job” is better than “try harder next time”.  Eventually we will all understand that “excellent work” means B and “colour inside the lines next time” is a D.  There is just no getting away from grades.

Marks may be hard to get and that may cause stress but stress is a great motivator.  Everyone knows more work gets done at the last minute than in the three weeks leading up to the due date. But no one is going to stress out over a project to earn a “way to go” or a “good application of glue”.

Stop bubble wrapping us kids.  The world’s tough; wear a helmet.

The Intermediate teachers this year have been focussing on #descriptivefeedback to support your children in their learning. The team identified that students hyperfocus on marks rather than the learning process and #successcriteria of the task itself. “With a focus on improving feedback for students, intermediate teachers have worked on co-creating success criteria for the classroom with each other and with their students.  Further, an exploration of current practice, in concert with pedagogical research, has facilitated the intermediate team’s development of tools that will continue to help students reflect on their learning process.  The goal of the intermediate team is essentially to give students more meaningful and applicable feedback beyond the traditional grade or letter, with the goal of having students reflect and implement the suggestions from the feedback to improve their skills.” (Mrs. Sambol)

In other words, if you focus on completing the elements of the task to the best of your ability, the marks will come. The learning process becomes the educational goal, not the mark. So, yes, as Jamie says, we need marks because as a society we currently need a way to rank students in some standard way whether their pathway (there are four identified by the Ministry http://edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/policy/cps/CreatingPathwaysSuccess.pdf) is university, college, apprenticeship or the work place, after they graduate from high school. At Taylor Evans, with our focus on supporting students to become independent and reflective critical thinkers, the marks on their assignments and their report cards will be an indicator of how they applied the learning process and thinking skills to their learning tasks.

Another point that Jamie brings up is that of resilience. His metaphorical “helmet” is the strategies and skills that we, teachers and parents, teach our children to use when they feel defeated, are in an uncomfortable or challenging situation. Help your child identify how they feel when they are in a challenging situation. Ask your child “What do you think you can do, how do you think you could solve this?, or what is your plan?”. You can also add a reflection piece –  “What will you do differently next time?” or “What will you do to improve?” This helps them to identify a plan of action for the next time they feel uncomfortable or defeated.

As a parent, you can also model how you persevere in challenging situations.  Identify your feelings, the problem and talk about what your plan will be. For some more suggestions on resilience begin with : http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience.aspx.

Thanks Jamie for the inspiration! It certainly is amazing how our children have such great insight into their own world and learning.


Categories: Principal's Blog