Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The New Student

In our school, we've looked at the new Commandment from the DOE directing us to work out a grading policy. This has been problematic for a lot of us. Some departments are saying students must get a participation grade every week, and are demanding rubrics for how we do it. This is because, as we all know, the pigs that built their homes of straw and twigs had their homes blown down by a big bad wolf, but the one whose home was built out of rubrics managed to save his bacon.

I've walked around the building, and I've looked at a lot of rubrics. I've actually seen a lot of teachers who have systems in which they are grading students each and every day to decide on a weekly grade. To me, that is excessive paperwork. And furthermore, it's idiotic to judge each and every student in the same way. For example, my new student did not say a word all period, but meticulously researched the questions I'd asked online. I tried to get him to participate, but he wasn't having it.

Now here's the thing. There are a lot of ways to rate participation.  I love when students jump up and
down to answer questions. But not everyone does this. My new student, for example, was pretty much glued to the computer. Now I did try and talk to him. I explained that every week or two I was going to give a participation grade, and that he couldn't just sit around waiting. He didn't really respond, but he looked a little sad about it. I hope I didn't traumatize him.

Aside from him, there are a lot of other issues. Now you can certainly ask teachers to judge each and every one of their 170 students each and every day. And perhaps because there's a rubric, some people may believe that makes things fair somehow. I don't. One reason is because I see things differently than some of my colleagues. I do not believe for one moment that I would give the same grade they would, even using the same rubric. People do not look at the same thing and see it exactly the same way. Otherwise we wouldn't need elections, for example.

If they really want students to get identical grades for identical behavior, they should realize Bill Gates' wet dream and assign computers to teach classes. There are several tangible benefits to that, other than Gates potentially dying from a massive-orgasm-based coronary and thereby instantly improving American education.

Once we have actual computers teaching classes, no one will be able to blame them when affluent students excel on tests and less affluent students do not. We'll finally have absolute proof that test scores demonstrate zip code more than anything else. Maybe when boredom becomes as pervasive as it can be people will even begin to appreciate teachers.

Meanwhile, though, there is that bunch of teachers are dealing with the odd requirements by rating performance absolutely each and every day. I have no idea how you do that and teach. For example, I try not to rate more than one thing a day. If I give a homework assignment I have to grade, I don't give a quiz, and vice-versa. On days I give tests, I don't give homework. It's going to be very, very hard to do this job if we have to grade participation each and every day and then do everything else we have to do.

Sometimes I think they wait until we're just on the edge, and then they dream up some new thing for us to do. I wonder how teachers not as crazy as I am will survive, and indeed a whole lot of them disappear rapidly, even in a relatively good school like mine. Personally, I think my new student could plan equally well as some of the great minds at Tweed.

Of course they don't actually do this job, so this stuff is all fine and dandy with them.
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