Where were these questions when I started teaching?

Sometimes I feel like I whale on my beloved university unfairly. But the further along I go in my career, I honestly wonder what in the heck we learned in the undergrad teacher preparation process. I specifically remember a solid week’s focus being on bulletin board preparation. Seriously.

Joe Feldman has written an excellent book shown above. He is flat calling me out as a teacher who gave no thought to grading practices. I made ’em up as I went, based on how I thought grades were supposed to work. I remember something about a bell curve, from teacher prep days in college.

And that was literally the extent of the thought to which I gave my grading practices.

I wonder sometimes if we’ve moved the needle at all with this topic. Here are some pretty hardcore questions/statements about the punitive nature of grading from Mr. Feldman.

  • Does traditional grading stifle risk-taking and trust between the student and teacher?
  • Are mistakes punished? Or encouraged? (Jo Boaler has an entire book about the brain growth nature associated with making mistakes.)
  • Simple question for teachers. Do the kids’ grades at the beginning of learning carry the same weight as at the end of learning? When they don’t know anything about the subject matter, do their mistakes as they learn punish them? Wow. That one kills me because it makes SO MUCH SENSE.
  • Do kids’ grades include things associated with behavior? Noisy class? Brining tissue for extra credit? How about wrong heading? Late work? Skipping problems they don’t understand?
  • The entire riff on grades being sought for the sole purpose of a grade—not learning. Does a teacher’s grading practices incentivize cheating? Getting the right answer, to get the right grade is the point. Not the learning.

I could kind of go on and on. I’ve just started this book. The above is captured over 3 pages(30-32). I’d dare any educator to read them and honestly ponder grading practices.

I did. I wish I could go back in time.

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