Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thoughts on Worksheets

I was sitting in a meeting the other day with my fellow English teachers and someone was sharing that they pick up three worksheets/assignments a week from their kids.
 "I have to pick them up and give them a grade or they won't do it" was her justification.
"So you give them meaningful feedback on every paper?" I asked.
"How do you know that they are using it and applying it?"
No response.

I always thought that English teachers were not the worksheet people.Or if we were, then they would be for a reason not just for a grade in the grade book. The conversation went on...

"If students do not turn in a writing assignment, I want them to be penalized."
"They are, we dock late points and they get a zero" I replied.
"No, I mean I want to give them an F to shock them into wanting to do their work."
"Really? For one assignment?"
"Well if they are not doing their work, then their test scores will be low and that will effect how administration sees my classroom performance."

That is the comment that cut me to the core. So are we concerned with helping students or how they will make us look? Shouldn't teacher effectiveness be based on how accurately we are predicting they are mastering the standards? For example, if a student is earning a D- in an AP class, then does that accurately reflect what they will get on the AP test? If the answer is yes, then we are doing our job.

It seems like a huge paradigm shift for those of us who have been teaching for a long time to not want to penalize the kids but reward them for growth- and I am not sure why. We all got into teaching to help students learn and succeed. Is penalizing them really the best way? Is negative reinforcement the most effective way to motivate a student?

I admit that there are students who just don't do their work- heck I have taught a few myself. But if the student has a trusting and respectful relationship with their teacher, then lots of these issues tend to work themselves out.

Bottom line is this -we always tell our students that one grade does not reflect who they are as a person. So why are we letting it define who we are as educators?

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