05 February 2007

Short Story

A teacher was telling me today about a student who wanted to transfer from her class to another teacher's section. The boy told her not to be offended, but he just wasn't learning much in her class and thought he should try another teacher. Well, she was very offended---her stated reason was that the kid earned an "A" in her class first semester, so he must be lying to her about not learning anything.

As I continue to think about grading practices, this particular scenario interests me. The "A" here represents very different things to the kid and the teacher. The teacher thinks the grade reflects learning and the kid identifies it as hoop-jumping achievement. The kid can do the assignments, but their value to him is very low. (Most kids wouldn't do them in such a case.) My guess is that the teacher would feel differently if the kid was scraping by, gradewise, and said the same thing to her about his learning. I wonder what it would take for this pair to agree on what a grade should mean and what learning looks like.

The other part I think about is how even a couple of years ago, I would have reacted like this teacher. I do believe that learning is the burden of the student---if a kid says he isn't learning, then it isn't necessarily because I haven't taught him. But how many kids have come to me over the years to talk about grades...and we never really communicated about them? What might I do differently next time I'm in the classroom?


Anonymous said...

A particularly timely post for me. Except the kid who wanted to switch out of my class wanted to switch to one where the teacher's still on maternity leave, and was maybe 10 percentage points from passing.

It's hard not to be offended, and there is no doubt in my mind that these kids know that.

The Science Goddess said...

Especially high school age kiddos.

Some of them really are playing a game---thinking they are going to an "easy" teacher (or at least someone who lets them get away with things!).

I do think that some kids just mesh better with other teachers. Life is just kinda that way in terms of who we do and don't get along with. But I also think that adults rarely get the option to change aspects of their schedules/jobs just because they don't like someone. We have to develop those people skills in kids.

Thinking back, there were some kids who I didn't make a fuss over when they wanted to change classes. There were other battles I was willing to pick. In the case I wrote about yesterday, I'm guessing that I would have just let the kid drop into another class. In the future, I hope that I could find a way to talk with him/her more about why learning wasn't happening (from their perspective).