Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Have a Concern...

My first day of school Activity 
I teach 9th grade students. I am concerned about many things when they come to my class. Did they get enough breakfast this morning? Did they get enough rest last night? Are they well rounded people? Are they enjoying some free time as well as extra curricular activities? Do they have a crowd of supportive people around them?

However, my biggest concern is how well they are learning what I teach. I teach much more than Biology Content. I teach students about how to prepare (for future classes, for college, for career). I teach them skills that will carry them into the future. I teach how Biology is important in their lives. 

I worry that too many of them are agonized over about their grade more than true concern over what they have learned in my class. 

Spilling water during a lab makes a mess but is not worthy of tears.

Don't get me wrong- GPA is one important piece of the puzzle that allows for student options and choices for the colleges of their choice. But some times this becomes an unbalanced situation and can become the ONLY thing they are worried about. This trend toward the pursuit of the almighty grade is alarming to me. How do I encourage them to be more concerned about the learning than the score they got on something. I have been reading and listening to people who want standards based grading, taking scoring grading away and only giving feedback until they get it "right". That would be a complete paradigm shift to the students, their parents and to me. Do I really need to sit down and focus on every single point and eliminate it? Or do I make a culminating event for each unit that is NOT the test, but that can be assigned an assessment grade? Should it be Formative or Summative?

I have been teaching 26 years- but the kids have changed and the world has changed and I have changed. I am more concerned now than ever about the pressure each of my students faces to perform perfectly in an imperfect world. 

Recently, I read an interesting article about how we, as an educational community (teachers and parents) can work toward a more productive, less damaging focus. We can give students skills to succeed later in school, at the university or in early career. They have to learn to fail gracefully.

I have included a link to the article from KQED- Mind/Shift-How We Will Learn titled "What Do Students Lose By Being Perfect?" (Holly Korbey)

"What Do Students Lose by Being Perfect?"

We will survive our mistakes.
I hope you read it and join with me in the effort to encourage calmer students who are increasingly self reliant. I would like to see young people develop the ability to make mistakes without the horrible emotional breakdowns and constant worry that they got every detail perfectly right (or at least every single point possible). We all need to learn that failure or (fewer points on a piece of work) is not the end of the world.