This post is a collection of thoughts and emotions I have had over the past few months, as an educator and as a mother.
There are many different ways to run a classroom, teach a skill, hold students accountable, grade, assess, and everything else we do as educators. This is what is wonderful about education, no two classrooms or lessons are the same. Our teaching experiences, professional development backgrounds, and life experiences are all different just like the twenty plus students in our classrooms. These experiences are what make us the teacher we are today, but are we reflecting on the practices we are using or just doing what we have always done because it's what is easiest?
Do you know why you require students to complete a Reading Log? Do you know why you are implementing Flexible Seating? Do you know why you assign that spiral review homework every night? Are you doing these practices because everyone else is, because that's how you have always done it, or because someone has mandated you do so? Is your why what is best for students or what is best for you?
In recent weeks I have had several conversations with teachers, both in person and online, and what I've noticed is that we don't always use practices that are best for our students, nor do we often ask ourselves this question. One conversation in particular we discussed the hot topic of requiring students to have their parent sign their reading log. This particular teacher takes off 5 points if a student doesn't have it signed. When I asked if she understood that not all children have supportive parents at home, she said yes and that she doesn't take points off of their reading log. To answer your question....yes, she only takes points away from students who do have supportive parents at home.
Now, I'm going to be very honest here and tell you that the "NorthernBelle" (aka. Raised as a New Yorker and living in the South for 13 years) in me did come out. I explained to this teacher that at no point is it appropriate to take points away from a child if their parent fails to sign something. Her "why" is that she is trying to teach her children responsibility. Is this really a best practice to use to teach responsibility? Isn't holding the child accountable for reading each night and writing a summary teaching them responsibility?
In another conversation with a few teachers we discussed grades, ELA grades to be specific. In this district Reading Comprehension, Spelling, and Writing are all combined for a student's ELA grade. Progress reports recently went out at the time of our discussion, therefor the grades reflected about 4 and half weeks of work. Below are the grades each teacher had in their grade book.
Teacher 1 had grades for 3 spelling test (40% of the grade), 2 reading logs (20%), and one writing assignment (20%).
Teacher 2 had grades for one reading comprehension (30%) and one math grade in the ELA (30%)
Teacher 3 had grades for spelling test (40%), word work (30%), and 2 Scholastic Weekly Readers (30%)
My concern as an educator and as a mother was...do those grades truly demonstrate the children's proficiency in ELA? Other reflective questions I had were: If you don't have any reading comprehension grades, what have you been doing for the first month of school regarding ELA? Does the practice you use to obtain grades accurately show if a student is proficient? There wasn't a single activity you did for a month of reading instruction that you could use as a reading comprehension grade?
There are many more practices used by teachers that may not always be the best practice. As an educator it is our responsibility to be life long learners and to always do what is best for students. I urge each of you to reflect on some of the practices you implement within your own classrooms. Are these practices beneficial to your students and their ability to learn and demonstrate proficiency? Are they encouraging your students to be life long learners themselves?
The best interest of our students should always be our "why".