A New Way of Doing Business?

Maybe it was the barbecue talking.

Maybe I just had a lot on my brain.

But I woke up last night at 12:30 after the most puzzling nightmare.

It was at school. There I was, in the teachers’ lounge, and there were a couple of moms sitting down at the table. Of course I knew them; they are quite active in and around the school. It wasn’t a surprise to see them sitting there, but what they were doing blew me away.

Each woman had stacks of papers. They were already checked by teachers, but these women were grading them AGAIN. Only they weren’t grading the students. They were grading the teachers! There they say with red pens in hand, ready and willing to disagree or discount what teachers had put on the papers already. They then put those incredibly low scores at the tops of the pages in preparation for sharing them. (With the principal? With other parents? School board? Who knows? It was only a dream, you understand.)

I remember feeling so incredibly violated by the whole thing. The injustice of it all struck me most. I was angry about being ranked and rated so low despite my efforts. I remember wondering: To whom might I have gone? The principal? (How did I know that this wasn’t done with her collaboration or blessing?) Our union? (Wait, our district doesn’t have one).

I woke up then, my mind racing. What would I do in that situation were it to actually happen (because, you know, at 12:30 in the morning you can convince yourself that ANYTHING can happen)?

In the process of trying to calm myself down enough to sleep, I tried to figure out what about the dream bothered me so much. The helplessness of not having someone to go to? Sure. But beneath that lay the indignation I felt at seeing my work, slashed through with a red pen. It was the frustration I felt knowing I had only done my best, and to see that I only got a fraction of it “correct” according to their standards. There they were, judging me and the quality of my work. How would they ever know what heart went into it?

(Turn proverbial light on *here*)

Don’t I do that to my kids, though? Hadn’t I just returned a test to some of them, not so long ago, delivering grim news of their progress? It couldn’t have felt much better.

So here’s what I wonder. Here’s what my next experiment is going to be.

What if the next grade isn’t a fraction correct and a percent?

What if, instead, I were to attach a list of the learning targets tested, and note how far they’ve progressed in meeting those targets?

Would it lessen the blow? Would it encourage them to take heart in what they *can* do, rather than what their deficits are? Would it motivate them to take responsibility for their learning? Or would it continue to foster an environment of feel-goodism in a culture of overly padded self-esteem?

I’m going to give it a try. Perhaps it will crash and burn. But perhaps I’m onto something – something that just may change the way I do business.

Your thoughts? I’d love for you to weigh in on the scoring / grading debate.

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

6 thoughts on “A New Way of Doing Business?

  1. Wow! That was some dream! I try hard not to use red pen, but wonder if the color really matters. I put a plus sign and the points they get correct on top and not a letter grade.Most of them are pretty smart and figure out the correlation. I try to conference with the kids when I see they need help and reteaching. I love the idea of showing their progress and not just a grade. I look forward to hearing how your experiment works out.

    1. Yes, the dreaded red pen. I wind up using red pen from time to time, but I would imagine it’s more how I use it than the color I pick 😉

  2. How truly fortunate we are to have you teaching in our school district! Will be curious to hear the results of your experiment.

    My comment is to, replace the word “instead” with “in addition”. I think they need to experience the numeric result and a thoughtful evaluation.

    1. Bruce, I love the idea of using both the percent and the graph for learning targets. Balance is seldom a bad thing!

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