I'm in a state of transition at the moment. I have asked for---and been approved to take---a part-time leave of absence during the spring semester to focus on other pursuits (most importantly my doctoral study). I am greatly relieved to know that time and headspace will be available in a few weeks.
I told my afternoon classes that very soon they will have a new teacher. While I'm sure that some kids will either welcome or be indifferent to the change, the most interesting part of the discussion was simply that their biggest concern (and the first one voiced) was "Will s/he grade like you do?" And they weren't asking in a please-for-the-love-of-Mike-say-"No." kind of way. I explained that they should not count on that. It will not be a big adjustment for them in the sense that they already have 5 teachers every day who have traditional approaches to evaluation. I'm not saying it's the right thing to do or that they will be well served by the difference, but they will understand the rules.
Secretly, I had to smile about two things. The first was simply that the new teachers had expressed the same concern to me. "I can't grade like you do." Hey, it will be your class and they are going to be your kids, you do what you have to. I don't have any more say about what happens. The biggest reason to be glad, however, was realizing that the outcomes to my doctoral work could have some very important implications. My interest is in how teacher grading practices impact student motivation---and anecdotally speaking, my kids are positively motivated by what I have tried to implement this year with them (especially the kids who struggle the most with learning). How intriguing that traditional grading practices caused anxiety for students...and standards-based practices made the teachers break out in a cold sweat.
My dissertation advisor and I have turned in our paperwork to the school district asking permission to do research...he is downright enthusiastic about what I've written so far, as well as the project I have in mind...and while I am sure that there will be some fears and tears on the road ahead, I am looking forward to a spring full of learning opportunities and other chances to conquer my own fears and dreams.