Sunday, June 29, 2014

Does Going Online Help Students Appreciate the Classics More?


Digital Dickens you say? Source
Turning students towards online access to primary texts

Ever since I can remember, I have always enjoyed reading classic literature - from Swift and Defoe to Sterne and Dumas. As my enjoyment of studying the English language became stronger in high school, so did my interest in writing. The connection between the two grew inexorably, eventually leading me to the teaching profession itself.

It's a typical English teacher's story, told by a typical English teacher.

Not every person, however, has the same interests. This is natural, encouraged and expected. Many students flock to maths, science and business; some to art and PE. We are all unique in our interests and passions. Nevertheless, I have always believed in a balance between all subjects. As a student, I made an effort to dabble in many different subjects - Geography, Social Sciences, Astronomy. I have always felt that our students need to have a certain understanding of most of the subjects we teach in school. A good, basic comprehension. You never know what knowledge or skills you will need in the future. For example, for some reason I have constantly found myself using math over the years. Did I study it in Year 13 in school or university? Absolutely not. But there it sits, needing to be used, as if to say gloatingly: "You know you need me." So I crunch the numbers, add, subtract and multiply. Another skill.

Studying literature may seem pointless to many, but I believe it has such an importance in our lives today and for the future. Many ask, "Why is it important to read a story about something that happened to a fictitious character in a setting that is 150 years old?" In itself, this is a true statement, logically makes sense. But there lies a richness in classical literature that explores so many themes, issues and topics that echo in our world today in the 21st century. It is one thing to say that, but quite another to make our students understand and grasp this themselves.

The classic approach struggles to say the least. A paperback book intimidates all those who first glimpse it. A Dickens novel looks very much daunting. Take 'Bleak House' for example. Its size is staggering, littered with such rich, descriptive writing. Still, not very appealing to your average 16 or 17 year old. We read the books aloud, ask comprehension questions, sprinkled with critical ones, and it can all be hit or miss depending on the class we are teaching, as well as the individuals. At the end of the process though, the students always feel like they are being forced to read the literature we give them. They ultimately struggle to identify with classic authors. What is the best approach then?

In a recent Guardian article by Roger Walshe, he writes about a survey which concluded that "94% of teachers reported that students rely on online sources when conducting research." It seems staggering, but completely makes sense. Why read a 150 page chunk of 'Pride and Prejudice,' one night, highlighting and taking notes - the proper way - when I can just 'sparknotes' that, finding all the answers, character analysis and plot summaries that I need. Yes, I kill the thrill of discovering the plot twists as I go, but at least I won't get zero on my homework.

It's the unfortunate truth - many students don't mind killing those precious moments of literature exploration, as long as the work is done.

One reason springs up: According to another survey by Walshe, "82% [of]...students struggle to identify with Victorian or Romantic authors..." In their opinion, the resources teachers are given are uninspiring. Walshe suggests exposing students to more authentic primary sources, such as letters, manuscripts, newspaper reports and notebooks - "student respond to the aura and authenticity of the real thing." It's one thing to imagine Dickens writing "back in the day," but an entirely different thing to see some of his old manuscripts and drafts, observing words crossed out, corrections made, realising that even a great author such as Charles D. made mistakes in his day.

But how to get a hold of these original sources that have always been in the possession of those chosen few historians and literary academics who have the privilege to handle and study them. Walshe has a solution for this as well: Discovering Literature. In his own words, it is a "digital gateway to more than 1000 of our greatest literary treasures, from the manuscript of Jane Eyre [to]...newspapers, maps, photographs and other supporting materials which bring their lives - and works - to life."

I think it's a brilliant resource. It enables students to learn about classic literature through the use of material that "brings to life the social, political and cultural world of the author." Perhaps with these original materials, we as teachers can inspire our students, and ourselves, to see classic, old literature in a new, more relevant perspective where each student can find something significant they can identify with - whether personal or social. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing classic literature to the inevitability of time and the digital landscape of our modern society.

Vital links:




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Teaching Jobs This September in London

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2184/2474763910_9898b00e9c.jpg
A plethora of classroom opportunities. Source
Opportunities abound in London this September 2014!

As the school year winds down, here at Classroom Canada we are already looking at teaching positions for Canadian teachers to fill for this September. Hence today's post has a more 'business air' about it. On we go!

After perusing the list of teaching jobs just handed to me from London for this coming fall, I must say the opportunities are boundless and very extensive. Here are just a few Primary, Secondary and Teaching Assistant positions that are available for YOU to take advantage of, whether you are in London already or thinking of going to London to teach this summer:

Primary KS2 Teacher in East London, September - This is a great opportunity to work in a fantastic school in East London. We are looking for a flexible and adaptable teacher, who will in return, be fully supported by the school. This position is for September.

Primary KS2 Teacher in Haringey (North London), September - We are looking for an exceptional teacher to join a department which is proud to promote excellent teaching and learning in order to secure outstanding outcomes for students, thus inspiring a love of learning.

Teaching Assistants at an Oustanding SEN school in NW London - An 'Outstanding' SEN School in North West London require learning support assistants to join them on a full time basis from September 2014 until July 2015.

Secondary Teachers needed for Long-term teaching positions in various London schools - We are looking for Teachers of all subjects to fill our Long-term positions that we have recently received. If you are a Newly Qualified Teacher or an experienced teacher looking for a change we may have many options available for you. If you are not looking for a Long-term or Permanent position then we also offer supply work Daily or short term.

English Teacher needed in East London for September - A modern school in East London is looking for an English teacher who is looking to become part of a strong team of teachers looking to inspire and teach the young minds of this generation. We are searching for an exceptional teacher to join a department which is proud to promote excellent teaching and learning in order to secure outstanding outcomes for students, thus inspiring a love of English.

These are just a few of the positions to consider this summer for a September start date. Please do click on the links and take a moment to fully read the descriptions for each available position - including key attributes and skills we are looking for, as well as the benefits of working with Classroom. There is still plenty of time to apply and start living the career you have always wanted in teaching in the magnificent city of London!

You can also find a list of ALL the currently available teaching jobs that we have for you in London here. All 68 of them!

To apply for these teaching jobs in London, or to apply for supply teaching & other contracts with Classroom Canada, simply submit your resume/CV and cover letter to 

apply@classroomcanada.com.

 

Vital Links for Teaching in London:

 

Classroom Canada website

 

Like this blog? Be sure to flick "follow" on the right hand side so you're the first to get our blog posts.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

10 Things Parents Want to Say to Teachers, but Can't...

http://content.mindmixer.com/Live/Projects/northkcschools/files/31310/F8916F93D121CEF18B101CA9F9FD86.jpg?634849566508270000
"Well, now that you mention it, I have something to say to you too..." Source
Secret Parent shares the reasons behind parents' frustrations with teachers

A few days ago I touched upon a very insightful and honest article from theguardian.com, outlining '10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can't.' It covered different aspects of the parent-child relationship, as well as parental support in the education of their children, inside and outside of school. Some of the points are so very true, but at the same time, I thought 'what would I think or have to say if I read that post as a parent?'

The answer was obvious, naturally:

"10 Things Parents Want to Say to Teachers, but Can't..."

Just as candid, this article - once again from the Guardian - was apparently created by a Secret Parent who, I believe, has some very good points to make.

My top 5 include:

1. We're confused by complicated grading
2. Homework - let's all keep it real
3. Ditch the crumpled letters home
4. We are not a blob - rather, a lot of individuals
5. Talk to us honestly

Indeed, lots to read and think about here. Do enjoy the article and I hope you can also appreciate both perspectives in this vital balance that needs to be attained by parents and teachers in order for all students to succeed.

Vital links:

"10 Things Parents Want to Say to Teachers, but Can't..."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

10 Things Teachers Want to Say to Parents, but Can't...

http://images.elephantjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/angry-teacher-pointing-500x332.jpg
"I have something to say to you..." Source
Things you have always wanted to share with the parents of your students

With the end of the school year closing in rapidly, many teachers like to reflect on the year that was, both professionally and personally. Thinking of ways to help my students improve their performance for next year, I find myself contemplating the numerous meetings I had with the parents of my students. Meetings both during Parent-Teacher evenings and other times during a school day itself when certain academic and behavioural issues needed to be discussed with particular students.

For the most part, the parents I have met and gotten to know over the year have been patient, supportive and very much helpful when it comes to encouraging their children to succeed in school. However, as we all know, there are some parents that can be, let's just say, a little more difficult to deal with. Professionalism and patience need to be at their best in these cases, to say the least.

Often, in those situations, we all wish we could say a thing or two about how we really think they should help their children - your students - succeed. Advice that you know, and I know, would be incredibly beneficial to all parties involved.

And with that, I give you "10 things teachers want to say to parents, but can't." It's a very candid, informative and, dare I say, entertaining article from a primary teacher writing via theguardian.com.

My top 5 from the list:

1. Your kids are not your mates
2. Data levels aren't everything
3. Video games carry certificates for a reason
4. John Terry is no role model
5. Sorry, your kid's just lazy

Please do check out the full list, complete with great explanations for each, at the vital link provided below. I highly recommend you read the numerous comments provided by other teachers who gave their two cents on the topic - they have some great lists of their own as well!

Vital links:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tech Meets Handwriting

lernstift
The Lernstift pen - Source
The Lernstift pen corrects your spelling, grammar and penmanship

Last week, I wrote a post on the declining skill of handwriting that is affecting all our students from daily classwork to exams. It has been a growing problem over the years as technology has extended its reach and hold on teenagers who often rely too much on their use.

Improving students' handwriting is something that I have always been conscientious of while teaching. I want my students to improve, while at the same time understanding the transition period involved in practicing one's writing form. It cannot be done over night and yet students have notes to write on a daily basis and tests to complete every week. I've suggested before that they could work on their handwriting over the winter and summer breaks, but enforcing that is difficult. Parents would be as much a part of that process as the students.

So what could help them improve their handwriting in a positive, supportive and useful way on a daily basis? This weekend I came across a Time article from last year that featured the Lernstift pen - which promises to "bring handwriting into the current century." It's function seems simple enough: It has motion sensors that analyze your strokes as you write, either on paper or in mid-air; if it detects any errors then it will buzz via a vibrating motor built inside the pen itself - letting you know that you need to make a correction.

It has two modes: Calligraphy and Orthography. One to detect any words that you have written wrong or illegibly. The other mode vibrates once if you misspelled a word, and twice for any grammatical errors in the sentences you form. There is still an element of challenge for the user as the pen will not indicate exactly which word was incorrectly written or misspelled - simply that a mistake was made and you must find out which one. An interesting feature.

Even though the German company that designed the pen is still in the process of raising enough money to mass produce it, they hope that they will be able to launch limited quantities of the pen's first version this summer.

I find the concept really interesting, and the potential is certainly there. However, I can also envision many frustrated students having immense difficulties coping with the amount of error-induced vibrations that will tingle their hands as they practice, at least in the early stages. I guess the old adage "no pain no gain" seems appropriate here. At the very least, it is a positive attempt to link technology with the old tradition of transferring ink/charcoal to paper, and will one day hopefully improve the handwriting (and grammar/spelling) of all students.

Vital links:

Time article - Lernstift Pen

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The World Cup 2014 Beginneth - Enjoy it in London

Brazil's showcase in 2014 Source
Where to watch the World Cup in London

No matter who you are, where you're from, what subject you teach, or what sports you favour, everyone can be a part of the Fifa World Cup. One of the greatest sporting events on the planet, it boasts teams from a very diverse collection of countries, with supporters from all over the world. For those who have been fortunate enough to have a home country participating in the tournament, it will be a month of drama, frustration, joy, disappointment, and perhaps euphoria. For the neutral observer, however, the World Cup is a feast of football, pleasing to the eye and soul - at least those who love the game of football!

And it all begins today.

Truth be told, not everyone likes watching football, but I have found over the years that this global tournament for football greatness and immortality is a spectacular event that always brings together family, friends and countrymen for one glorious month. This year's edition will not be any different. If you are traveling anywhere this month on the weekends, watching the World Cup in different countries can be such a thrill. A stopover in France this Sunday, for example, to watch Les Bleus play Honduras in a cafe in Paris would be exceptional. All the French supporters sitting or standing around you, their nerves being tested to the utmost degree. It's a great experience. Or perhaps watching Switzerland versus Ecuador in Basel the same day if you happen to be in the Swiss city on the weekend.

I remember being in a lovely little cafe/restaurant in Zurich, Switzerland to watch the World Cup Final in 2010 between Spain and the Netherlands. The place was filled with Holland supporters. For the fun of it, my friend and I were supporting Spain as we knew so many of their players from the domestic league in Spain, which we follow. A seesaw battle, when Spain finally scored the first goal - which was the eventual winner - late in the game, the two of us jumped with excitement. I then found out how many other people were pulling for Spain in our little venue - two. After the momentary silence that ensued, followed by the final whistle, I remember having a chat with the Holland supporters after the game, talking about the game in friendly banter. I just love seeing the reaction of fans who have invested their time and heart to watch their teams compete at the highest level, hoping and praying that they'll win. It's great fun!

Let's not forgot the three lions of England. They too are in the World Cup, as they usually are every four years. Usually enshrouded in disappointment with each passing edition of the tournament - with the exception of 1966 - there is nevertheless always hope for the team at the start of the competition. Many Canadians have their roots in England, so it's only natural to follow them when the action begins. The support can be immense.

But where would be the best place to watch each game?

Besides the comfort of your home, there are so many places to watch the World Cup this summer in London. I was perusing a good article from Conde Nast Traveller this morning and found out about some really great and interesting places in the whole of the UK where you can go watch the games - either with some friends, colleagues, or just on your own:

From a Brazilian cultural experience at a place in Soho that shows EVERY single game to the massive outdoor screen at the Summer of Sport in The City - including street food from all over the world. There's also the 'Fever Pitch' in Fulham which will be strung out with flags and fitted with 14 large screens so fans can see from every corner of the venue. Other unique and really interesting places include the rooftop venue at Netil360 - where you can bring your own beverages. Go see the spectacular views of London while catching the games at Paramount at Centre Point or The Dome at the O2 and so many more. A plethora of different themes, cuisine and drinks for all tastes. Take a look at the link below for all the details in full for every single place!

At the very least, the World Cup is a welcome distraction of excitement to all the lessons and schoolwork that still await this month and next. Enjoy!

Vital links:

Conde Nast Traveller article

The world's most amazing football pitches - in pictures

Official list of all the World Cup Matches

Monday, June 9, 2014

Losing Marks Because of Poor Handwriting

http://smartblogs.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/books-students.jpg
How's your handwriting? Source

Losing marks in exams due to bad handwriting

"Sir, I can't actually lose marks because of my bad handwriting, right?" I remember this infamous question last year while teaching one of my Year 7 English classes in London. Years ago, I would have lightly jested that "of course you can't lose any marks. Unless the person grading your test cannot understand a single word you are writing because your handwriting resembles a doctor's scribble." However, on that particular day last year, I had a different answer for my student.

According to a recent article by Graeme Paton, Education Editor at The Telegraph, research is suggesting that "digital technology is having a major impact on pupils' handwriting skills, with teachers unable to read exam scripts and emoticons creeping into students' work." This naturally affects their marks as teachers penalize them for illegible writing. And that's two-thirds of teachers who have admitted doing so, according to the figures. Admittedly, I wasn't too surprised when I then read that more than a third had also seen emoticons in exam answers and coursework (35% of teachers found them in exam answers). You think students would know when it is appropriate to use emoticons, but apparently this isn't the case - I have seen this myself, by students even in Year 11.

Paton also writes about the great number of students who "were being left with blisters and aching hands after being forced to write for long periods because of a lack of practice." Who could ever forget that feeling of marathon writing back in the day? Thinking of my current students, I frown with deep concern when one of my pupils complains about his hand aching with pain after writing a single page of paragraph writing that comprises his essay response. It is definitely a concern, especially with the over-reliance on ipads and other technology at school and home. But that's a topic for another time.

Paton further points to previous research that suggested that "children who struggle to write fluently devote more brain capacity to getting words onto a page during tests - interfering with their ability to generate ideas, select vocabulary or plan work properly." I have seen evidence of this numerous times over the past few years. You can see it in the disorganized writing of many students, their work unplanned and conveyance of points and vocabulary scattered.

Fortunately, because the student I mentioned above is only in Year 7, he and his classmates still have time to improve their handwriting. At the time, I already had a collection of specifically designed pens that helped improve my students' writing. I used about 4 per class, I recall. But that was not nearly enough. The same chance for improvement can't be said for many of my Year 11 students who have developed their own style of writing for years - many unique yet not legible. This poses a particular problem for them as they might not be as willing to work hard to improve their writing.

As an old school 'handwriting person,' I understand when other teachers scoff or severely criticize students for these "travesties" in English writing, but I also know that it is not a simple issue that can be remedied easily. There are other things to consider as well - for example the situation and viewpoint of the student. They've grown up in a society that embraces and overuses emoticons. Yet, it's part of our language now, how we communicate with each other. At one point last year, I was also teaching the use of technology in English classrooms to my Year 9s. We watched a very entertaining and interesting TED Talks video on the use of text messages and how the 'decline of handwriting' has been talked about for millennia by many. The speaker, John McWhorter, believes that there is much more to texting, both linguistically and culturally (see video below).

This deterioration in handwriting skills has been predicted for many years by countless traditional English language standard bearers. I remember reading articles commenting on the decline of handwriting skills back in 2008 (see similar articles below). It's definitely tough to see kids who struggle with handwriting, especially if they have not had enough practice over the years and have settled for simple scribbles to get their answers across on a piece of paper. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement, but it needs to be a conscious and assertive effort from parents, teachers and especially students. They need to understand the importance of good handwriting in order to be successful in Primary and Secondary school, as well as University and College. It is vital. I can't even begin to think how I would have survived so many of my exams without my ability to hand write cursive quickly and legibly.

Going back to Graeme Paton's article, he mentions that the UK Government has "now pledged to improve standards, with handwriting playing a bigger part in a newly revamped National Curriculum...Schools are required to hold 'frequent and discrete' lessons in handwriting for five- to seven-year-olds, with pupils being expected to hold pencils properly and form letters correctly and confidently." This is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, it shouldn't stop there. The solid practice of handwriting needs to continue for students into their teens. Anyone who has ever taken notes in high school or during lectures knows how important handwriting is in the retention of knowledge: "The fluid motion of writing and rewriting notes helps to instill the data in the mind more efficiently than the process of typing, making it an effective revision tool which aides information recall."

The last statement is a keen observation and fact that currently holds an advantage over technology. This is true for both complex passages and historical facts, as well as simple, basic English or Math formulas. For students that have difficulty achieving high scores on spelling quizzes in my classes, I always suggest they write out the words 10 times each as they prepare for a quiz. Once they apply this old and extremely simple method, I find that there scores are nearly always flawless once they write the test itself. Again, the underlying point here is the use of handwriting to practice, not typing words on a keyboard.

Still, there is hesitation and low motivation from many students who themselves scoff - in return - the very mention of handwriting. As Paton sums up at the end of his article, "Some 89 per cent of those responding to the poll said they now revised using laptops and computers, while more than half deemed the 'traditional method of note-taking with a pen and paper outdated.'"

The debate surely continues.

Vital Links:

the-principal.com article - Link to the actual article from 'The Telegraph' by Graeme Paton

TED Talks - John McWhorter: Txting is killing the language. JK!!!

5 Reasons to teach spelling and handwriting

Pupils with poor handwriting 'do less well in school tests'

Pupils' handwriting 'increasingly illegible' 

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Final Stretch

Source
Keeping it calm and prosperous in the last 6 weeks of the UK school year

With just 6 weeks to go in this academic year, there are still so many things to think about as we make the final stretch to the glorious summer holidays! For teachers in the UK, many have returned from the final half-term break of the year - hopefully refreshed and recharged from their escapades in Spain, Lisbon, Paris, Berlin, the Mediterranean and all over the UK. Besides the heavy burden of marking and finishing projects with students, teachers are also going to job interviews at other schools, making plans to stay at their current schools or becoming acquainted with our new arrivals in London. Some teachers are returning to Canada this summer while bidding farewell to new friends made in London.

Some of our teachers are teaching in Canada, and preparing to teach in the UK in the autumn. Report cards are being finalized while counting down the days to the big move across the pond to London.

From the recruiting end, both here at Classroom Canada and schools across London, we are all on the quest to find more teaching staff for September. Many jobs are in demand and teachers both within London and outside are all carefully scanning the horizon, weighing their options as they search for change or perhaps more long-term positions.

What are you doing about it? Counting down to summer? Counting down to the UK? Or counting down to your return to Canada? Or not counting down at all?

If you would like to become part of the Classroom Canada team, please apply directly through our website. Also, be sure to keep perusing the Classroom Canada blog to help you understand everything you need to know about teaching in London!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Grading and Inflating

The application of grade inflation - via source
Is grading fairly worth the fight?

The art of grading is something that many teachers have traditionally struggled to grasp completely. More complicated than it sounds, grading correctly and efficiently depends on many factors: From the type of item being graded - essay, quiz, test, etc. - to the importance of each work. It can be time-consuming, exhausting, stressful, complex, and let's face it, difficult. Always foreboding and relentless. It never goes away. Even at the end of the school year, it sits in regression, waiting for September to roll around once again, when it can clutter our schedules once more.

Grading increases in difficulty as the Year levels get higher. And even more so when it comes to different subjects - say a science paper versus an English essay. Let's take English for example. There is an obvious difference when marking a Year 7 assignment versus a Year 11 essay. Using simple check marks for including basic things in a task turn into band levels and rubrics that are complexity and subtlety in full combination. It can be hard to decide whether a student has earned a band 4 versus a band 5 on their topic development or structure. You start questioning yourself and often involve other teachers in your grading by asking them their opinion on the particular assignment. However, their perspective and value of certain concepts in writing can be different then yours. You can't possibly have them look at all 30 of your essays, can you?

And therein lays the heart of this post: Grading inflating vs grading fairly. Just as teachers have different opinions on what specific grade a student earned, so do the students offer different opinions on whether the grade they got is the grade they deserve. Obviously there is a degree of bias when it comes to the student. They are trying to get as high a mark as they can. Whether it's because they want to go to a better university or impress their parents, or simply because they want to pass a  particular subject or reach their target grade. All teachers understand this. However, whether any of those singular objectives merits them receiving a particular grade is an entirely different matter.

When it comes to grading fairly, teachers have several things to consider. One obvious point is how much time to invest in each paper. We all have lives to live outside of school, yet for many students their school marks are their lives. Many have put in hours of work to put together essays that they feel are worthy of a decent score. Do we spend our entire evenings grading every inch of this paper, meticulously noting every point on a rubric? Or do we cut corners, generalize, save some time in the process and appease the students - whether they care or not? These factors affect our thought processes when sitting down to grade a stack of assignments that have a deadline attached to them.

I think many teachers juggle between these two approaches. They selectively choose which items to mark quickly and which ones to diligently invest more time in grading. For example, a short quiz that is worth 10 marks versus a end-of-year essay that is worth 25% of their overall marks. With the increase in value of a particular item comes the natural increase in student drive to fight for the grades they think they deserve. Conflict is inevitable. I remember one time, a few years after graduating high school myself, going back to my school to visit several of my former teachers. I still have vivid memories of stepping into the classroom of my English teacher to say hello, only to find her surrounded by three students who were begging to get a "few percent more" on their final marks in order to give them a better chance to get into specific universities they had applied to. Two of them were crying as she vehemently justified her reasoning behind their grades. It was painful to see, but I later learned to understand the difficulty when I had begun to teach myself years later.

I read an interesting article a few weeks ago regarding grade inflation titled, "Confessions of a Grade Inflator" by Rebecca Schuman. In it, she openly and honestly writes about her belief that grading fairly is just not worth the fight. I love the candidness of this article. Although it is specifically talking about Professors and their difficulty with pleasing "the customers" or students, I think the piece holds true with secondary schools as well.

Rebecca writes that "If I graded truly fairly - as in, a C means actual average work - the "customers" would do their best to ruin my life." Yes, she praises the hardliner teachers who uphold their values and their stalwart belief in marking properly and correctly, however, she also understands that battling constantly with the regular complaint of certain students - and in our case, inevitably parents - is just not worth it.

Rebecca then goes on to display several tweets from teachers who have expressed their frustration at dealing with students and their endless complaints. They range from "I got a student who wanted me to bump up a grade on their paper from a B- even though they plagiarized two wiki articles" to "Mom called. 'Nuff said." Without a doubt, it's frustrating, especially when you are dealing with teenagers who genuinely believe they deserve better marks and get emotionally upset when they don't receive the grade they know will get them into a specific university or secure a scholarship. You also have the lazy students who fight tooth and nail for a mark that they know their parents will accept, even though you both know they didn't deserve it one bit.

Rebecca fairly assesses that in this "relentless culture of assessment and testing, everything our students have done since the age of 5 have been graded - but almost all of those grades have been "exceptional," so the exception is now the norm." She admits that she cares about her students and that she "can't handle being the person who causes their young faces to crumble at the sight of that B, or, egad, C, which they equate with abject failure. I don't want them to think they failed, and stop trying altogether." All teachers can see themselves in this role. It's a complicated issue. Blaming the system comes next, as does questioning whether we should even be assessing so much work. Standardized testing vs knowledge vs actual skills. The balance is elusive.

Having moderation sessions with your subject's department helps a lot as you have your own colleagues taking a look at the work you have graded and agreeing or disagreeing with the marks you have assigned. It adds more credibility to your grading and instills more confidence in your abilities. This way you also have the Head of your department ready to back you up in case parents get involved and students push the issue all the way.

I find myself being more of a hard liner who sticks to the rubric and am always able to justify the grades I give my students. I can say, here, this is what you were able to show me in your essay. This is what you need to improve on. They can see it, as well as their parents. It's time consuming, but it's been the only way for me to feel good about grading and what I do, even if the hours of sleep are shortened. That way I can stand by my decisions and assessments at all times, even for the ones who are failing. I am not trying to crush the spirit of my students or watch them fail in some sort of display of power. I just want them to take responsibility for their work, take it seriously and learn from their mistakes. I want them to earn their grades honestly and legitimately. Granting them inflated marks that they didn't earn in the least is not the way to do it.

With the end of year marking in full approach, grading fairly and effectively is just one of many things to keep a close eye on with vigilant thought. The system is not perfect, but we can try to hold on to consistency in grading from our end, at the very least.

Vital link:

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails