Do No Harm: Flexible and Smart Grading Practices
We all have a memory from our school days where a moment in grading was harmful if not detrimental to our development. I remember a moment in my new science class. It was a new private school and coming from an all-girls school, a mixed gender school was nerve wracking enough. My teacher had a mini skirt short enough to draw the attention of the males and a demeaning attitude to say the least. She immediately sat me down in front of the class, introduced me and announced that the class would judge if I was smart enough to be there. My chemistry grade had been top of my class and my physics was above 80%, however that day I scored 1/50. She showed the new class how pathetic I was, and consequently I failed science that year.
If you have become a teacher, it is a calling. That calling provides us with a responsibility, not only as teachers but as extended parents per se. You are nurturing a fledgling into the best version of themselves. A wonderful motivation has always been the role that Robin Williams plays in Dead Poets Society. A teacher is a bringer not only of knowledge and insight, but also of hope and unending patience. Not everyone possesses this eternal fountain of patience but it is necessary. It requires a great deal of sacrifice to be a teacher who produces incredible students, and by incredible students I do not mean top achievers. I mean students who have shown visible signs of positive change.
The stress levels in children aged 8 – 12 are alarmingly high, showing 17% of the children tested, suffering stress related symptoms about the financial state of their parents affairs. This generation is showing an immense increase in stress and it is not only affecting adults. As teachers, the system of flexible and smart grading practices is not only effective in getting the child to actually get a task done, but also in healing the child instead of hindering their growth. We are not aware of our students history or their home life, and in most cases, we will never be aware of this fact. Sadly, stress has not only hit children from an impoverished or unstable home life, but affects children from well to do, perfect-seeming families as well. It is simply the time that we live in, and the digital influx or bombardment of information available to children as young as 5.
The Do No Harm practice needs to be understood and implemented in schools across the globe. It is imperative that teachers start understanding that their role may have changed with this digital age, but it has also increased in importance. Parents are too busy being stressed, children are too interested in returning to their tech, and teachers have been none the wiser. With methods such as those proposed by Myron Dueck, whose philosophy ‘Grade Smarter, Not Harder’ has been a worthwhile inspiration to educators worldwide. His blog is constantly updated with new relevant material and his book, Grade Smarter, Not Harder can be found on Amazon. It’s an investment if you believe in empowering the generation that you are teaching now and the generation to come. His son, Elijah is a great inspiration to him, and he references his son’s experience, as well as his own 17 years in education throughout his book.
Grading needs to include all avenues to not only allow the child to rebuild the will to learn and have a taste or yearning to do better but also to find independent thought in that process. As Myron speaks about zero’s and penalties not having the same grounding as they did before, we as educators begin to realise that the time has come to change our viewpoint, we need to change the way that we reach the children, because the way that we have always taught is no longer working. It is only destroying lives now. No teacher wants to know how they did not know that they had been destroying their students lives, now you do now, and you know that there is a way to change this, a positive way to reach the children, to rebuild and remould them into the beautiful creations that they are. A great place to also find inspiration is on Edutopia, they have an interactive community and inspirational blog posts to excite your next class!
It is all about giving the children the chance that they deserve. This generation is a completely new kettle of fish and it’s going to take an entire new recipe to serve them into the hands of success. It is our responsibility as educators to stay informed, and if the old modes of thinking have not proved successful, then it is us who need to be educating our teaching methods, reforming our classrooms, and giving our children the hope that they deserve.