Parenting is the most challenging part of my life. In my post-college life teaching and coaching were 1st on the list of challenge until I had children. The two coexist, however. Because of what I know as a teacher, I am concerned about the education and growth of my children.
As a teacher it is instinctual to examine desired outcomes to lead my teaching. The question is what is defining those desired outcomes? Performance, experience, and learning are elements that all work together in developing the outcomes, good and bad. Okay…then, as teachers, we have to assign arbitrary percentages and letter grades to the performance, experience, and learning. The physical sight of a grade provides shock effect, positive and negative. For example, we all know the parents that follow their children’s grades closely and will call or email at any slight drop in performance as dictated by the letter grade or percentage they ‘see’ online. The concern and support are great from those parents. However, what are these grades truly telling us? It is hard not to compare one student to another, however that is not an accurate or fair way of determining exactly what our children are learning and experiencing. I have fallen into this trap as a parent. Our grade school daughter receives an F on a math assignment and Desiree and I nearly flip out. Then I discover that there were only 4 problems, she got two wrong and the teacher has made the assignment worth 100 points…I suppose this is easier to break it down into percentages. The ‘F’ shows up online as we check her grades. WHAT!?!?!? We further discover that assignments and tests worth more points are equally weighted. We learn so much by failing, don’t we? Then our daughter feels the effects of her parent’s reaction and tries to examine her own confidence, potential, and self-image. Desiree and I are conditioned, as parents, to react to progress or lack thereof, by looking at the letter grade. We lose our perspective. We talk to our daughter about ‘getting good grades’ but we fail to talk about the process of learning. We fail to talk about her strengths and how she can utilize those strengths to develop her math skills and study skills. On the other hand, when grades are all A’s and B’s, does this indicate all is well?? Of course not, however, how often do we, as teachers and parents, really examine those ‘good’ grades?
As a teacher, I am overwhelmed with ‘grading’ essays and trying so hard to provide valuable feedback to over 100 students that I often fail my students. I fail them because I don’t focus on their strengths…I only focus on what needs to be improved in order for them to earn a higher ‘grade’. The desire to learn, be taught, and teach must be intrinsic. How do we do that? How do we accomplish that feat when letter grades and percentages are offering extrinsic motivation…or fear? The fear of failure, the fear of ‘being behind’, and the fear of socially being an outcast lead us to press our children often leading to diminishing their self-concept and feeling of self-worth.
Being a parent is challenging…the most challenging part of my day. I know I must focus on teaching my children to utilize their strengths to build upon their weaknesses. As a teacher, knowing what I know, seeing what I see, this is a daunting, overwhelming, and exhausting task.
Check out this article http://www.alfiekohn.org/phpnews_1-3-0/news.php?action=mainnews&id=5 by Alfie Kohn. A colleague led me to this and I shared it with Desiree. This article provided Desiree with more ammunition to move toward home-schooling. I am not convinced that home-schooling is the answer. I just don’t know what the answer is….
Interesting article today in the New York Times Eduation section in regards to ‘tougher A at Princeton’ :