18 April 2020

Existential Crisis #527

Everyone is making adjustments these days. Individuals, families, organizations, communities, all the way up. Some of these changes represent more immediate needs, while others are only showing their faces after a period of time. There are plenty of "How are we going to..." and "I didn't think about..." sentence starters at the moment. I suspect that addressing these, like some existential version of whack-a-mole, will happen for a long time to come.

Our district is not unlike many others which are wrestling with grading and reporting. What if students can't connect with us, due to lack of Internet or barriers? What if students won't connect with us, even though they could, because family obligations or just basic self-care are more important at the moment? What if we offer a Pass/Fail option for our high school kids—We know the NCAA doesn't like this...are we going to be hurting the futures of our students by putting Ps on transcripts? How are we going to use narrative comments at K - 5 to communicate with future teachers—Since families are doing a lot of instruction, do we add their feedback?

And on and on. When I saw my tweet from this date (full list here), it brought back to center what's important...and what's missing from our current conversations:


At some point, we are going to have a conversation about how we've done a shitty job of teaching most kids to love learning. I say this because the biggest arguments we seem to currently be having are centered around using grades as motivators. The questions I have been getting from other administrators are around students taking advantage of the system (in their opinion). What if a high school kid has a "D" in the course and chooses to take a Pass for the semester...they can pretty much be done with the class right now? Yup...and so what? It's possible that what is happening in a student's personal and home life needs to be the focus right now. It's also possible that there wasn't a love for learning in that area that was established or nurtured...and now, it's too late. If we didn't engage and develop a relationship with a kid before COVID, we aren't going to do that now.

It's the "So what?" that I keep turning over in my mind. Every high school, college, and university has students whose transcripts are going to be a big asterisk in terms of the spring of 2020 (and possibly beyond). We don't have the only high schools that will be sending students out into the world with fuzzy grades. It's all going to be okay. The world cares far more about whether you have a diploma than the actual grades reported. A high school transcript only matters until the next step, then your experience or college/university transcript takes precedence. These are not hills we need to die on now.

But I do think that as we think about the After that we're going to have to face this failure of ours to create a love of learning. Maybe everyone might not love Calculus, or PE, or Orchestra. That's okay. That's not the point. But if we see the student as an integral partner in shaping their path...when school becomes we do with them instead of to them...then distance will not be our enemy anymore.

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