Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate: Improvement Focus

As I started reading this chapter I immediately thought of so many former students.
Kids who worked hard and it just didn't come easy to them.
I specifically thought of one child who had made so much growth. I was, and still am so proud of the growth that was made in one year. At the end of the year, I even said, "Look at all you've learned this year! I'm so proud of you!"
The response, "Then why are my grades so bad?" 
He/she didn't see it. I saw a kid who put forth effort, made great growth, and all he/she saw were the numbers. I was so shocked I could barely formulate a response. 
All I could think was, "How did I let this happen?" 
After reading this chapter it is obvious that I have the power to control this thinking.
I can control how students respond to assessment.
However, this is another one of those not-so-easy tasks.
It feels awkward to say grades don't matter, but I see the value in it. I see it because if you always get poor grades you will eventually think it's not worth it to even try in class. If you only ever see negative that's how you feel about learning, school, and yourself. 
Honestly I'm not exactly sure how to fix it.
We're in a time where it seems numbers are the only things that matter. I found myself falling into this black hole of, "all students must measure to this level." 
And it's sad. It makes me sad that my mind switched at some point.
Somewhere recently in my teaching journey I got lost.
I could feel it too. You know that moment where you know your professional judgement is correct, but there's all this other buzzing behind you stating the opposite? Hearing it so often you start to fall for it too. You figure your judgement must be off if all the buzz is saying something different.
Here's the thing... Your gut is almost always right.
At this point my gut has the feeling that what I was doing didn't work for everyone. It worked for many, but not all. I could reach more students by implementing these strategies. I can help create a positive feeling about what is accomplished rather than what isn't achieved. 
I have to focus on the improvement of skills rather than grades only.
Paul Solarz shows this can be done by having high expectations in class, providing useful feedback, giving students ownership of their learning & by tracking progress. 

My current questions are: How can we only focus on improvement when all students are to learn certain standards in each grade? We're responsible to teach skills, and what if they just don't master them?  What do you do when you have a student that isn't interested or motivated? 

What do you think about focusing on improvement rather than grades in your classroom?

1 comment:

  1. I hear what you're saying. My first year I got lost along the way. I was told that what I learned in college wouldn't work and I needed to use the prescribed district strategies. But there isn't a one size fits all education system that works for everyone. In Kindergarten, we only focus on building skills and don't assign grades. Maybe using rubrics for grading and showing growth that way would help promote improvement over scores. They are required to learn certain standards but figuring out a way to show progress in meeting those standards instead of a final score could help create a growth-mindset in the classroom. We used "Success Criteria" in our school last year to help students see the steps they would need to master in order to meet the final objective. It helped teachers create lesson plans beginning with the end in mind and helped students see the process required in meeting the goal. I blogged about it here.