Recently I read Ben Grey‘s post on “maintaining” instead of “planting brilliance.” I’m on a math listserv with some really smart Canadians and Josh Giesbrecht responded today, “I can think of a few good (and a few bad) reasons to grade a math journal. Mostly it depends on how you’d answer this question: What are students demonstrating mastery of through their journaling?” I watched as a response came in that basically said we hide grading journals in grade fog, and I’ve listened to an admin friend this week talk about some high school teachers quibbling over a grading program that doesn’t average to the hundredth decimal place. I sat recently with a group of teachers who were splitting two classes into three, (see “Once Upon a Time, I WAS That Newbie!“) and I’ve been in conversations with teachers in my building about how kids can pursue their passions and what do we, as teachers, do with that–do we grade their work? How far do we let them go? Where does that work play into the required curriculum? I’ve also done data analysis on 3rd, 4th and 5th graders to help set up some instructional groups, and thought a lot about my last post here, “Museums, Playgrounds, or Something Else?” I’ve read a reflective comment by one of my teachers on our proposed 1:1 project here, and I’m thinking of all the comments I’ve read on Twitter about professional development and how we usually don’t differentiate it.
All of those recent experiences have me wondering where we, as educators and administrators and teachers and parents and students, (and any other interested parties) find time to share our ideas, to think through processes and plans, to stimulate each other to “plant brilliance” as Ben says, or to question and reflect…to learn from each other. I think about Kirsten’s post, “One Inviolate Hour” and Zoe’s post, “Why Are We Afraid to Explore Issues Essential to Our Children’s Future? and wonder when we’ll get time to talk and reflect and learn the latest research and do action research and talk to each other about our learning. My school is using Google docs and wikis to talk, simply because the asynchronous ability helps us find time.
But with all of that conversation about grades and averaging, and responding to intervention and thinking about finding time to talk, and how to manage new parts of the day like our Mastery Extension, I think we forget something sometimes–and that is that we are working with children who need our kindness, our compassion, our smiles, our caring and our understanding to become the compassionate, caring adults we want the world to be filled with in the future. We get so busy in our daily plans and the responsibility of our job that we forget that we are there to help find “out the conditions of the environment and the kinds of activities in which the positive capabilities of each young person could operate most effectually.” (John Dewey.p 139)
For me, it’s about finding student strengths, building on them and helping young people discover the innate kindness and caring within them to support each other to become more knowledgeable–and not forgetting that first and foremost, they are children–and I work to keep that in the forefront of my interactions. What about you?