25 January 2008

The Rigorous Bell Curve

As I've been working with students on preparing for their biology final, I've heard a lot of snippets about their other classes. I don't allow or encourage kids to be derogatory about other teachers; however, as we've been having some mini-lessons on study skills, kids can't help but offer examples of what other teachers expect them to know and do. Some of it, if true, is ridiculous. I wouldn't have believed the story about the 400 word vocabulary test from a kid if I hadn't heard the teacher brag about it.

These tales have left me wondering about how many teachers equate the rigor of their class with the number of students who fail it. Is there an assumption in our schools that "good" teachers are ones whose results with students strictly follow a bell curve?

Personally, I would love it if all of my students earned A's. It would mean that they had all met the standards and learned what the state has asked that I teach. Does that make me an "easy" teacher if every student can do this? Would my grades be considered "inflated" because I strictly evaluated students on their learning?

I'm just shaking my head at the moment, confused by the stories I'm hearing from kids. I try to give them some helpful suggestions about how to prepare for the Herculean tasks others are assigning to them. I feel for their stress levels, although there isn't much I can do about them. Maybe over time, their teachers will realize that notching off their belts with numbers of failed students does not make them look good, only irresponsible.


Clix said...

I really don't think this is something that can be realized over time, unfortunately. It seems to come from a different understanding of the teacher's purpose. And I don't know what to do about it, because I don't understand why anyone would want to see themselves as mere material-providers. That's what a library is for, and it's better at it than I could ever be!

The Science Goddess said...

I really feel like teachers who are there for the power trip need to get out of teaching. Maybe that sounds harsh, but if a teacher's purpose is not about helping kids, then move out of the way and allow someone else in there. Ya' know?