Grades are not punishment

Hello, dear readers! Long time, no write! You would think that, this year, with my supposedly ample planning time (I have had two or three planning periods, depending on if my ELL class existed or not) I would have plenty of time to write. Ha, ha, ha! Of course not! Ironically, I have mostly ended up being Full Time 8th Period Sub (and because 7th period is often open, I also end up subbing in places that I normally wouldn’t, like in the 3rd grade room). However, I really don’t mind it. I love being able to get to visit other teachers’ rooms, see what goes on in their classes, see my own students in a different context, and also get to meet and work with students that I won’t get to have for years and years. You see, I’m so sneaky – I want to build up good relationships with them NOW so that when I have them in the future, we already have so much good rapport, it’s gonna be like a dream. Right? That’s how it works, right? (Okay, maybe not perfectly like that, but it’s gotta help.)

It also does NOT help that WordPress has been blocked at school, even on the teacher side of things, and it’s one act season so the last thing I think about doing when I get home at 9 pm is remembering to post a blog. I literally walk in, feed the cats, get ready for bed, and am asleep by 9:12 or thereabouts. That being said, it is also the time of year where, in general, we’re tired. I was recharged yesterday by going to my state language association’s conference, but I decided to make a whole different post about that.

This post is actually about reflecting on my one word, PATIENCE, and more importantly, my one sentence, IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, COURTNEY. And that grades are not punishment.

You see, my school is switching to the Power of ICU system. I’ve written about it here and there, I think, and it is finally, finally, FINALLY going to happen in January. You see, I’m the type of person who rushes headlong crazy into stuff without really planning. And then there are other people in the world who will plan for-EVER and never actually get around to the doing. It really takes both types, and although I am itching to get started with this plan that, I think, will do great things for my school’s achievement and more importantly, our school culture, we have to be ready on all fronts or it will fail. And not the First Attempt In Learning type of fail, I mean the Throw It Away and Claim It Will Never Work type.

The very first baby step of the ICU plan is that all students complete all work. Since I know this is coming, I am trying to get into some good habits already. For example, I already have a ‘Lista de ICU’ on my wall (I know, I know – I am choosing to sacrifice a very tiny piece of Spanish accuracy to keep consistency with terminology in the rest of the school) and it is effective in reminding me to remind the kids, hey, I need your stuff. And because I’m me, I am very open and honest with telling the students what’s up, and that there are no more points off for late work because points off for late work doesn’t tell us anything about how well students meet the standards, and how grades should reflect one thing: how well our students meet the standards of learning.

Okay. So that was me, on Thursday afternoon, having this big long fancy speech, right? Then I’m driving home from NILA yesterday, and I realize what a big fat hypocrite I was, the very next day on Friday. You see, I have this student in my 6th period class who somehow manages to fall asleep. I don’t know how she does it. It’s a pretty noisy class, we’re usually up and moving, or at least moving our pencils or mouths, and she probably zonks out 3 days a week. On a personal note, I don’t get angry – honestly, except for this year BECAUSE I have a boisterous Spanish 1, in the past I have always been extremely sleepy and a very boring teacher in 6th period. It’s right after lunch, my room is chilly, it’s just… the perfect time to nap. I get it. So anyway, the other day we were doing a listening activity and she slept right through it. I woke her up, she wrote her name on her paper, and immediately fell back asleep for the rest of the activity. So on Friday, I go to collect stuff, and she asks about the listening activity. You know what I told her? I said, ‘You slept through it, too bad.’

SKREEEEEEEEECH. [That’s the sound of my brain hitting the brakes.] Now fast forward to me, in my car on Saturday, reflecting on the great conversations I had with my peers, thinking about our foreign language standards, and then I realized what I said to my student. Without even THINKING, I had punished her for sleeping through the activity by basically saying ‘no, you cannot prove to me that you meet the standard, you must suffer’. It is so ingrained in us as teachers to use grades as punishment that even I, a teacher who considers herself enlightened and all about standards based grading and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… told a student no, she couldn’t have the opportunity to get those points back. Even when SHE took the initiative to say, ‘Can I redo that?’

That was very wrong. The answer is yes. The answer should always be, ‘Yes, you have another opportunity to show me that you meet or exceed the standards.’ Who cares if she slept in class, and who cares if the activity is for a grade in the gradebook or not. It is not about me, and it is not about the number. It is about: did the learning happen?

So on Monday, I am going to apologize to that student, and I am going to arrange a time for her to come in and complete the activity.

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