Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Grading kids on how much they care?
These are the factors that go into a grade in our middle school, evaluating a student's "work ethic."
It is an effort to separate the grade on an end product from the effort that went into it. Maybe it's an attempt to give kids who "under-perform" a chance to get credit for how hard they try. Maybe it's just a way of factoring in how seriously a student took the work, whether he/she was "mailing it in" or really working.
But I think it's a way of grading kids on how much they care.
So here's the irony: maintain schools that institutionally disregard who kids are when determining their course of study. Cope with the resulting disengagement by providing a grade system on how much/little they seem to care about the learning.
Kids work hard when the work matters to them. Since they are not choosing what they learn, with this system they not only have to learn stuff they don't care about, but receive a grade on how much they don't care about it.
Insult to injury.
Whose fault is it when a kid doesn't care? It's nobody's fault. The kid just doesn't care. Find out what matters to kids, what they know, what they love, what they are "experts" in, and let them direct their learning.
Stop worrying about whether kids are going to learn to read, write or do math if we allow them to pursue the learning that is most meaningful to them. A student who is engaged with the world around them in a way that matters to them is going to learn to read, write and do math.
Stop worrying that kids will not be able to hold down a job unless we teach them work ethic. The work world and school are two entirely different arenas. Adults have choice, even if choice is limited; and adults get a paycheck. I can't tell you how many times that has inspired me to learn what I didn't care about. But what the reward for kids when they are asked to do it?
Self-respect is what enables people to function in the work world. Self-respect comes in part from accomplishment. Accomplishment comes from doing work that truly matters.
Kids are powerless in the school system. We uphold this, then hand them our judgment.
Is anyone else seeing the irony here?