Friday, November 17, 2017

Going gradeless

At some point I suppose I'll have to explain more fully when I'm back here and something about the history of this post. For now, though, just bear with me ...
I tried to find the source of the following, but came up empty-handed so far. Obviously I should made a note about the source somewhere. I'll keep looking.
“In this course, you must claim every aspect of your experience — your thinking, your feeling, your doing, and your reflecting on that doing — and to grade yourself for your efforts and the results of your efforts.”
How could (or should) students use this idea (of grading oneself) to best effect in a gradeless class? What does it mean to "grade yourself"?

A final course grade (at least where I teach) is the only option I have for making a permanent record of a student's performance or work in my courses. As much non-graded work as we may do together in building learning and making lasting change, the only official thing that survives is what's on the transcript. How doe we (each student and I) make that grade mean something?

Being a reformed (or is it "renewed"?) college student myself, I don't think I look at grades the same way some others do. That is, I had a pretty bad college GPA for awhile (long, long stories there), got out of school to work and get my head together, and came back under a program at the university wherein we basically pretended that my early "failures" never happened. In other words, having had plenty of "bad" grades on my official records, I don't tend to see them on other people's transcripts as harbingers of future failure, necessarily. Etc., etc., etc..

So... students "grade themselves." In what ways could they (should they) frame that work? What are they saying to themselves and to others when they give themselves an "A" or a "B" or whatever? Will they, for example, explain to a future college official or employer which of their grades they gave themselves?

In class a couple of weeks ago, a student asked about the requirements for our semester "mastery project." As he began to understand the scope of what we were hoping to do, he obviously began to think about scores/grades/marks/ and so forth. Knowing that I'd said many times that "everything is made up and the points don't matter*," he nevertheless quipped, "I think you are secretly grading use." Am I?

I'm outta time for the day, but I'll be back to consider this some more.

*That's Drew Carey's tongue in that cheek, eh? 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Oh what do you do in the summertime...

Oh what do you do in the summertime, when all the world is green?

This Primary song from my childhood sets the stage for my summer. The lazy days and loose schedule are so appealing. The cool breeze across the deck as I lounge with a book that I don't have to read... The leisurely stroll from home to library to sno-cone shack... Wearing jeans over to the office to fiddle with stacks of old student papers and to browse through books I last touched in grad school... The delights of afternoons unencumbered by meetings... The freedom to splash in the pool with kids and give them chores when they say the "B" word.

All these are the delights of summer.

And yet...

Last summer I took the relaxing a little too seriously, I think. I binge watched shows I'd been missing through the school year. I stayed in bed until embarrassingly late hours. I didn't shower some days, and I pretended to shower other days (wash your hair, put on more deodorant). The projects I'd promised myself would get done didn't. The books I said I'd read sat idle on the nightstand or the desk. The exercise I set out to do was roundly, soundly, firmly ignored.

And so, another summer comes and I resolve "this" and "that." I set goals and make plans. Though I'm not foolish enough to post them here, I have made a list of things I will do and ways I will spend my precious summer. It's posted in two places... in my brain (that is to say, in my phone, as a Wunderlist) and as a printout on the mirror in the bathroom I built two (or was it three?) years ago. Also there is a list of the things I (try to) do daily to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

I have a few things I have to do later in the summer, but for a few days here, I'm going to choose to make my world a little better, one day at a time.

What do you do in the summertime?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Watch this if you care about parenting...

A thoughtful video about fatherhood. I really enjoyed it and I hope I can learn a bit from it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Notice the good"

I often feel more than a little tortured by my inconsistent and often overly wound-up attempts at parenting. It has been far, far too easy for me to see the negative that my children do and comment on that (and often not very nicely). I suppose that when I see my kids making (or apparently making) the same mistakes that I made, my (supposedly) adult self feels an almost uncontrollable urge to tell their adolescent or prepubescence selves what they must not do. Sheesh!

I don't feel like I've ever been very good at speaking to them on their level and in the terms that make sense to them. As a result, I've probably talked (or yelled) AT them far more than I've communicated with them.

It all makes me rather sad some days. And yet...

I happen to believe that there is grace enough (and to spare) for parents who are willing to try and keep trying. So I keep trying.

Of late, my wife and I have made concerted efforts to see the good in our children (and there's LOTS of it) and comment upon it. What a better way to live... Really.

What do you do to build your children up? How do you help them move along toward worthy goals? Where is the balance between praise and correction?

I'm sure I have lots to learn. Do I need a paradigm shift? Will my children survive me?

Monday, March 3, 2014

I think I've graded one too many essays tonight...

I can tell. When I start to get a little mean or snarky, it's time to hang it up for the night. I started a mini marathon session about three hours ago... maybe a little more... and I was reading good essay after good essay. Now, however, they seem trite and hokey and contrived. What has changed? Not the students.

So... I'll put away the stylus*, get some sleep, and plug away again tomorrow. I'll probably revisit the last couple of essays I read tonight to make sure I wasn't too hard on them.

The good news is that I'm WAY more than half way done with this big batch.

*I have had some fun grading on "my" iPad (it really belongs to the college, but I still play Plants vs. Zombies on it from time to time... don't tell) with iAnnotate. That overpriced little app allows me to customize almost infinitely and create shortcut after shortcut. Pretty fun, really. And actually, for what it can do, the app isn't overpriced. Especially after I learned recently that it has come down in price since I got it. So... there you go.