I have been neglecting this blog for so long! For those that don’t know, I moved to high school this fall, so I don’t teach middle school monkeys anymore. When my domain (www.middleschoolmonkeys.com) came up for renewal, I let it lapse, not realizing that I couldn’t access it anymore through my edublogs address. So, now I am back to www.mrsbowes.edublogs.org.
The move to high school has been fabulous, yet challenging. All of the work I have done in the field of assessment and literacy over the past two years is definitely being challenged in a high school world of credits, averages, honour rolls and scholarships. I am sticking to my guns as much as I can, but am also being careful to not rock the boat too much until I prove that I know what I am doing. So far, I have ticked off a few people with my strong opinions, but nothing too disastrous. I know – patience and baby steps!!
The biggest issue I have so far is with the punitive grading system. Last semester, I taught science and drama, so in drama I had huge support from my department head to assess and instruct as I saw fit. The science department was a little more against my grain, but they allowed me to do second chances and implement many of my philosophies as long as kids were learning. Science is definitely not one of my stronger areas of teaching, so I just followed the herd and implemented small changes.
This semester, I have my babies – language arts and drama. My philosophies on assessment are polar opposite to our department’s philosophy. My department head and I have agreed to disagree and he is being very respectful of my choices. I really don’t feel the punitive nature of their policies is in the best interest of students and learning. But what do I know? I am used to teaching middle school monkeys, not high school monkeys?
I have been using my creative instincts to get around the policies as well. For example, one of the department policies states that late assignments will be deducted 10 marks a day up to 50 marks. Yowza – no thank you! My solution: I don’t have “due dates”, I have “checkpoints”. An assignment isn’t late if there isn’t a due date, can it??? I know, semantics, but when you run a workshop-style classroom, I think there is room for these creative distinctions!!
Slowly and surely, I will rock the boat a little more, but until then, I will continue to do what I feel is best for my students. I will be setting up a teacher blog and student blogs on wordpress in the next few weeks, so I will post the link on here when I do that. (edublogs gets blocked in my district because of “blog” in the address, but wordpress doesn’t).
Looking forward to seeing Alfie Kohn at teacher’s convention tomorrow! After I hear him speak, I am sure I will be ready to challenge the establishment and get rid of grades!! However, I need to build the bridges that need built before I look like a totally loony tune. I have to remember, that I was a firm believer of punitive grading, zeroes and all sorts of other poor excuses for teaching for almost 15 years before I found the “better way” to enhance student learning!!
Until then, happy educating!
The Head Monkey