Rethinking Letter Grades
This week we read the first four chapters in Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander’s The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life. This really got me thinking about letter grades and the pressure that it puts on students.
I teach 4th grade to 32 students who start the school year full of excitement, wonder, potential, and possibilities. Throughout the school year, while I know that they still all have those characteristics inside of them, that same spark and fire gradually fades in students who see themselves not meeting up to the standards that we measure them up against. As much as I try my best to encourage them, some of them get so used to seeing bad grades that they stop working up to their potential and stop trying so that they don’t disappoint themselves. Why try and fail when you can not try and get the same results?
What could I do to take the pressure off of these 4th graders? Would it be realistic to tell 4th graders that they all get an A in my class if they show up, do the work, and then write me a reflection about everything that they learned? I can imagine complaints from other teachers at my school and the numerous amount of complaints that I would get from parents. Maybe taking grades away completely isn’t the solution, but there has to be a better option for these students.
As my school begins to align our standards with Common Core, we are now moving into a 4 point rubric, and our students won’t even see letter grades on their report card this year. Our upper grade teachers, myself included, are so used to putting percentages and letter grades on everything. As a result, students see those letter grades on all of their papers, tests, and progress reports, however they will not see any of that on their actual report card. Would writing a score of a 1, 2, 3, or 4 on a paper make a difference, or would it be the same as writing a letter grade? I plan on testing this out for our next trimester so that I can see for myself if it makes a difference.
Becoming a Contributor
If you’ve never heard the words of wisdom from a young Steve Jobs, I recommend that you watch the short YouTube videos Steve Jobs: Secrets of Life and Steve Jobs on Failure. In the first video he talks about how we all have the ability to change and influence this thing that we called life. The video on failures talks about the difference between doers and dreamers, which relates perfectly to Zander and Zander’s chapter about being a contributor. Steve Jobs was definitely a contributor who definitely left his mark in this world. I’ve always been a dreamer, but Steve Jobs and this EMDT program have inspired me to become a doer, a contributor in this world.
- image: Failing grade on the top of a math test – microsoft clipart. http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/clipart/default.aspx
- image: Steve Jobs rendered in Applesoft BASIC by blakespot. http://www.flickr.com/photos/blakespot/6220212311/ retrieved on 10/31/2012
- Youtube video: Steve Jobs: Secrets of Life by Santa Clara Valley Historical Association, http://youtu.be/kYfNvmF0Bqw retrieved on 10/31/2012
- Youtube video: Steve Jobs on Failure by Santa Clara Valley Historical Association, http://youtu.be/zkTf0LmDqKI retrieved on 10/31/2012