Report card season. Again.
In my early years of teaching, I loved to play dress-up in a way. I was trying out all the big girl jobs that teachers have to do, report cards, bulletin boards, correcting papers, you know the drill. But when report cards came along, I'd agonize for hours, trying to create a snapshot of each student that would help parents know how well I understood their child. (I loved putting up bulletin boards too.)
But now, I just want it all to go away. No more tests, no more report cards, I want to teach the curriculum and meet the standards and report about it in my own invented way.
The truth is, kids, most kids anyway, love report cards. They like that long term mega-snap shot, super summative system we call grades. I wonder sometimes, though, what it's like to be a kid seeing your report card on a blue screen. We now live in a paperless world. Do you still get that quarter for an A?
My brother sent me a couple of old report cards recently. Across the front of the envelope of my fourth grade report card was my dad's perfectly formed Catholic school script, "I'm so proud of you, Gaelie!" And my heart just swelled. I remembered that report card, and I remembered the Kennedy half dollar I'd gotten that year.
So today? At seven in the evening, I was lost and searching for the right word, and I didn't see my custodian walk in. Until...he started laughing. It was a deep belly laugh, and I almost jumped out of my chair.
I looked down at my hands, scratching aimlessly at the keys, and back up at the blue screen. And I had to check myself, because I think a few words might have slipped out of my mouth.
"Argumentative, resistant...frequently defensive--at times, right?"
I looked at him then, and we both started to laugh. "The truth hurts," he said.
And then I looked back at the screen. Resistant...at times. Yes, that one. The truth is, for this one, "resistant at times" is huge progress. A little injection of student choice has helped him along the way.
Capturing a student in grades, though, now seems so old-fashioned to me. And reducing them to a series of numbers just seems inane too. I sometimes wonder how and why it all switched gears like this. There was a great time when we were talking about compiling portfolios...formative learning, and showcasing performance in that way. I know I can still do this, of course. I'm always so proud of my students' work.
But things have changed, and I'm hoping they'll change again soon. Will that pendulum ever swing back the other way?