Wednesday, September 5, 2012

So Tell Me How You Really Feel

Now that we are a couple weeks into school, we are starting to get a little deeper into actually assessing some work. So now the questions on how to actually get an A in my class are really starting to be asked. There has been so much talk about GPA in my classroom lately that I am seriously starting to twitch.

My chemistry class is still pretty quiet. Most of them do not know me well enough to come right out and complain, but they are nervous, to be sure. I have an amazing first section this year, and they are pretty used to getting high grades. For the most part, they seem to be up to the challenge. We ended up walking through how to do a capstone* so they know what it should look like. I think they are slightly less anxious now.

However, students in my ocean science class, for the most part, know me pretty well. And they let me know exactly what they think about the new system. I have this class set up just slightly different than my chemistry. I don't have the blue and gold standards, mostly because wasn't completely happy with the standards I had written. This turned out to be good thinking because I have already changed some of the targets. I am really debating on this, because this system seems to be a little more straightforward with not as much in the way of decoding to figure out your grade. But then I like the idea of those big ideas, so who knows where this will all end up.

Today, I handed back an ocean science test along with a grade sheet. There was freaking out and some of them just can't let go of percentages. The majority of complaints seem to stem from the fact that they can't get away with not understanding something. To them, it is completely fine to not understand how waves travel through a medium because next week, they can do better on tidal movement. It will all average out and they will never have to come back to understanding waves. This is apparently a much bigger safety net than I had realized because there is some major panicking (and complaining) going on.

Going along with that is grading out of 2 instead of, say, 10. Or 50. Or some other arbitrary number. Basically, they either understand it or they don't. There really is no "partial credit" here. Again with the safety net.

I mentioned capstones to my ocean science and was immediately bombarded with the extra credit question. That is how they are viewing the idea of capstones. I am having a hard time getting them to see it from another angle, because they see this "extra work" as equating to "extra credit". I can honestly say I understand their perspective, but I think it's a little too overwhelming for them to cope with the idea of applying knowledge at this point. So we'll come back to that in a couple days.

I pretty much had two camps in my ocean today. On one side are those who kind of accepted the idea and are going to humor me in hopes I change my mind when everyone's grades are terrible. The other side is made up of those who are still pouting.

What I really need to do a good job of is guiding my kids through this system. I can't just throw it out there and hope they catch on. This is such an enormous shift in philosophy that I'm not sure they are all going to follow. Giving examples and keeping kids from giving up is going to be crucial. And exhausting.

Lucky for me, my principal is on board. I gave him a print out of my set up and he was intrigued. A couple days later, I stopped in his office and he pulled out a little green book called A Repair Kit for Grading and asked if I had read it. No, do I have to? I was a little nervous thinking I had really done something wrong and he was going to make me revert back to a more traditional grading approach. However, he congratulated me on already implementing what he thought was a good system. Whew.

So tomorrow is a new day. My ocean is going to get their first taste of capstones and what it really means to take all this information and use it. Hopefully, we will discover together the difference between extra credit and actual learning.

*Another post that hasn't been finished yet.


Kathryn J said...

Awesome! So glad that you have support from your principal. How long have you been teaching at your school? Did you have to get approval before implementing this?

Tracie Schroeder said...

I have been at this school for eleven years. It's funny because for the longest time I taught lower level kids, so the lack of parent involvement allowed me to kind of do whatever I wanted. I have been using some form of SBG since 2008, but it had never really occurred to me to get it approved first. I didn't have any complaints until I started teaching "regular" kids and by then I already had it set up and was comfortable (mostly) with it. This new system that is not based on percentages I DID run by my principal. His only comment was "go work your magic." I think this is kind of where we are headed as a district anyway so I think he is willing to let me be sort of the beta tester.

Kathryn J said...

That's really awesome. Sorry for the late reply, I thought I subscribed but never got the follow-up e-mail. I don't have the street cred yet to try anything this radical at my school. I am a 4th-year teacher who gets laid off every summer and transferred to a different school.

I really hope to do SBG soon. I think my Chemistry students really need it. There is too much of a "it's passing" attitude and D-level understanding doesn't cut it on the big state test at the end of the year.

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