Earlier today while teaching Foundations I had an idea and I thought “Oh, I should include that in my daily blog post.”
Well, I don’t remember what it was now. I’m sorry.
Okay, so I know I’m doing that annoying stream-of-consciousness thing right now but I was hoping writing the above sentences would help me remember, and it worked.
So I remember what the thing was now.
Here we go. (And it’s gonna seem weird because now that I remember I’m gonna go back up and change the title so it would seem at first glance that I never really forgot what I was going to say, but I did, I promise. It’s weird how writing can compress and obscure time right? Maybe it took me an hour to write this much but you read it in a few minutes. And maybe I didn’t write it in the order that you are reading it. (I did, but you can’t tell.) Except for the title, but we’ve already covered that. Alright stopping now.
Here we go for real:
As an undergraduate, I very much agreed with the idea espoused by the many SBG (Standards Based Grading) bloggers and other folks in the #mtbos about how grades should never reflect compliance, but only understanding. That struck me as making a lot of sense, your grade in your class should only reflect what you know and nothing else.
I still really like that ideal and believe that if I am going to assign grades at all (a perfect world being where I assign no grades) then that is probably the best system for grading.
Well, today I was giving grades for compliance. I set up the Point Collector Activity on Desmos. It’s a beautiful activity. My students just plain old weren’t doing it. They were confused. For some reason, they just don’t read the directions. Or they read them and don’t understand them. Or they don’t try to understand them because they’d rather talk. I don’t know. I was frustrated because instead of a worksheet I was trying to give them an interactive assignment that still taught them about inequalities, but they just weren’t into it.
I thought maybe that I needed to scaffold the activity some more, so in 2nd block, I turned on teacher pacing and had them all do screens 1 and 2 with me. This took way more time than I wanted it to. And then when I released them to try the rest on their own, I did get more engagement than 1st block, but still not a lot. And I still couldn’t tell if it was because the activity was too hard or if they just weren’t trying.
I’ve been feeling discouraged this week because, as I wrote earlier, good classroom management doesn’t produce motivation. It’s just good classroom management. And I don’t have completely good classroom management yet, I just have better classroom management than last year. (And just about anything is an improvement from last year, let me tell you. It kinda sucks how in teaching you essentially have already hit rock bottom and then you climb up from there. Or maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know. What I’m saying is, the first year is hard.)
Some teachers on Twitter would tell you that the lesson has to be motivating and that good lesson design is the best classroom management. I agree to extent, but I think that only goes so far and it’s a little frustrating to hear. Sometimes a good lesson plan isn’t good enough either. Teaching students that have to be constantly motivated is extremely draining.
So I made the Point Collector assignment worth 1 point for each screen completed. I hate using grades as a punishment (“Do this or you will get a bad grade”) but honestly that’s the only thing that seems to work for the context that I exist in as a teacher. (And sometimes it doesn’t work even then!)
For the college classes I teach online, my grading looks like this:
50% quizzes (They’re standards aligned using an SBG system)
10% discussion board and miscellaneous (so participation)
This is much closer to what I want for grading ideologically. 95% of my students’ grades is completely based on whether they have mastered content. They could ignore my “How’s the class going for you?” 10 point check-ins and still get an A if they understand calculus. But those students either learn and pass my class or they waste their money and time. I don’t have to motivate them. I couldn’t even if I wanted to, it’s an online class.
But my freshman and sophomores? The ones that I find myself saying sentences to that I also say to my 2 year old son?
“Don’t touch that”
“No, don’t throw that”
“Hey, sit down”
“Please be patient”
“Hey. Please don’t yell at them”
Sometimes the only thing I can do to get them to even begin to try to think about a question is “This is for a grade”.
And maybe you’re reading this thinking “But what if you just tried…” and honestly right now I’m feeling as though whatever you’re gonna say isn’t going to help. Maybe it’s because it’s Friday and it’s been a long week, or that my Geometry class was crazy and I had to ask a student to leave after she said “I am f*cking pissed” after I moved her seat because she kept talking and then she turned around and denied she said it 2 seconds later when I addressed it. I don’t know.
I don’t want this whole post to sound negative because I’m not actually as despondent as this is probably reading, I’m just trying to justify using grades for compliance to myself.
Is it helping you? It’s helping me right now.
- I have gotten way better at estimating how long it will take a class to do an assignment (Thanks, EdRealist.)
- I am pretty good at coming up with assignments from scratch to help students work through an idea
- My classroom management is better (Geometry got WAY wild today and I still got them wrangled back down after some serious seat shuffling and then the removal from class)
- My Foundations students are doing well content wise (even if they were lost during the point collector activity. I still don’t know why that threw them for a loop, but the actual content itself they are doing okay with.)
- I have gotten much better at staying cool on the outside even when I am frustrated inwardly with students. 32 days in I haven’t yelled in anger at a class. Only spoken firmly or quietly and seriously.
- I feel more organized and on top of my “extra” duties this year
That’s all I can think of for now. I will probably blog about the topics of grading for compliance and classroom management versus motivation again. They have been on my mind a lot this year.
Thanks for reading.