I'm shifting once again.
We're sent a letter saying that starting as soon as (could be) tomorrow, we may have students coming without masks. We're provided a Q & maybe A session after school to share our myriad questions about what this might mean - for student attendance, behavior, angst... Not a lot of people asked about staff concerns. We are truly concerned for the students - as is our role. As is our lifestyle, really. We've got concerns for ourselves, but they're always pushed to the side. Ooop! Now it could be next week. Whatever. This isn't anything I can control. I need to focus on what I can control.
Pandemic concerns aside (since that is what others not in our profession have decided)... I wanted to document a shift in my grading practices that happened as a result of our 1:1 end-of-term grading conferences I had with students this past quarter. I collect each student's evidence for reading comprehension and writing skills, we discuss their preparation for class, how much they read in class and out, and their participation, and then students come up with what they think is a fair grade based on our discussion. The first quarter I had some students who said they deserved some sort of "A," even though their comprehension was in the "C" range. I said something along the lines of, "I get it - you tried hard, this is new for you, you didn't know how all this goes... so let's focus on getting your comprehension up by reading more, slowing down, etc." And these students got the A- they suggested - with goals to help them the second quarter.
This (second) quarter that just ended Friday, I had some of the same students do the same thing again. Even with the added writing piece not looking like "A" work (and not revising it when provided the time in class), some were still not reflecting on their skills. After all, they "always" get As and Bs in ELA. I was bummed, to say the least.
Then I reflected. I have not provided them help to can keep track of their own achievement. Sure, it's all on PowerSchool in the comments section, but do they know how to put it all together? Are any of them doing the math in class every time we have scores but don't let the computer average them? Since averages aren't the best, shouldn't we just go with the last couple? What if they're the same types of scores as the first few?
I don't have enough scaffolding for the kids who aren't doing "A" work. And I'm not going to put in that effort this year. I thought the year would get better, but we're half-way through and it has not. In fact, I'm going to make things easier on me - and on them. About seven students and I have decided to put their points into the grade book to let the grade book average them - just like all their other teachers do. This way, they can see where they are throughout the quarter and look at the comments on PowerSchool to see how to revise, should they wish to do so.
If I was not concerned about masks, distancing, cleaning, disrespect, hallway behavior, vandalism, earbuds, phones, parents, apathy, students who will only work with certain other students, seating charts that crash and burn every time, then maybe I'd be more invested in making this "no-grades-until the-end-of-the-quarter" thing work for ALL students. This year is NOT that year.
I'm grateful for the students it works for - many seventh graders are reflective enough for me to agree with them and feel comfortable / justified with the grade they chose. I'm grateful my system this year is actually back in place (I skipped it last year) and our documenting is improved from two years ago. And I'm grateful I can go back to "traditional" grading (still more fair than my grades were years ago) for the students that are not reflective - yet.
And I still have some flicker of hope. Our Middle School Standards-Based Grading Committee is planning to once again meet in February. Our last meeting was in February of 2020. Maybe we'll have SBG at the middle school before I retire. Maybe. The last two years, I've learned to not count on anything when it comes to my profession.
Today I feel I can't turn left, right, go forward or even go backward. I can shift things, however. It's better than last year, right?! For sure. Day by day. Step one: Stay physically healthy. Step two: Take care of your mental health. Step three: Connect with the kids you can. Day by day.