I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Parent Night

I keep looking back at the parent night post I wrote in 2013. I've looked back at it each September for four years now, and each year I tweak it for myself a bit. It is past time for a new post. Here's what I was hoping to convey this year...

I have no syllabus. We are starting the year with a pilot curriculum that I'm actually looking forward to. It's reading and writing workshop, which is what I believe we need right now in ELA. The bookmark I hope you picked up on your way in has a link to our class website, among other resources, where you can explore to learn more about the content in our class.

Instead of telling you all about me, I’d like to start with asking you to think about a question:
Who was a teacher you liked - or at least respected - in 7th grade?
Now try to come up with WHY this person was someone you remember.

I hope to be all those things.
I asked your children to finish this statement in a survey this past week -
"A great teacher is _____"
Your children hope I am the following:
kind, funny, fun, helpful, fair, understanding, friendly, respectful...
I let them know I expect the same of them:
kind, helpful, fair, understanding, friendly, respectful…
Without these expectations, we won’t have much learning occurring.

One more question: What CONTENT from 7th grade do you remember?
      (Long pause... Nobody seems to remember!)
Your child won't remember very much either. What will he or she remember?

My hope is that once your children leave 7th grade, I hope they will remember that I never gave them answers. I only guided them towards tools they can use for the future. We shared our ideas in a respectful manner, and learned how to learn even more about topics that interested us, or bothered us... topics that kept us reading, writing, and discussing.

I am the most fortunate of all of your child's teachers you'll see tonight.
I get to enjoy your child’s presence for 80 minutes of every day - and I really get to know them.
I’m also the most fortunate because I don’t expect your child to memorize any FACTS.

We get to explore great writing, share what we’re reading and writing, and figure out how to read to enjoy and learn, and how to write for an authentic audience - not just for their teacher.

Hopefully, by the end of the year, your children will have learned EMPATHY in ELA.

Hopefully, by the end of the year, your children will want to continue learning outside of school hours.

We spent the first ten days of school building community, respect, trust, and understanding of why we need to read and write. I will continue to try to reach them through literature, nonfiction, and their own writing.

I will also be offering more choice than I was ever afforded in 7th grade.
We will have choice in our reading, writing, and sharing what we've learned.

Our first activity to get to know each other a bit and decorate the room was our Six-Word Memoirs. I'd like to show you the video now. If you'd like to use this time to chat, feel free. Each six-word memoir movie will be published on our blog, and you'll get an email reminder when I send our next two-week update. [Insert video here!]

Instead, somewhere during this beautifully-planned speech, I got derailed a bit. One parent asked, "What can you tell us about the grading in here?" 

To which I responded, "What did your child tell you so far?"

This led to a super awesome passion-filled me-on-my-soapbox quick explanation of why feedback is more effective than grades or marks. (I only had a total of 18 minutes!) I hope I also made the point that they needed to contact me as soon as they had any questions or concerns - that I would be so saddened to hear them tell next year's teacher to "disregard my child's grades last year - he got to choose them."

I further explained, "Your child and I will sit down together and both of use will bring evidence to the table to support what we believe the final grade should be each quarter. We will share achievement and struggles, and make plans to improve during the next quarter." 

No more averaging. 
No more using practice for points. 
Let's see what each child knows so far, and then see where we can improve.

My "gradeless" resources so far: "FaR" tabs of our classroom Weebly
                                    Feedback Instead of Grades LiveBinder for parents to inspect
                                    My own reflections on this journey

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