Midterms are due. Parent-Teacher Conferences are this week.
This means many, many, many, conversations about how the work of many students is C-Level or Average.
There are so many moving parts in evaluation, I believe facilitating and guiding the students in how to self-reflect and evaluate where they are is empowering our students to own their education. Here is a link to my 21st Century Skills Evaluation Forms that the students will use when they are evaluating their work.
I do not like the current conversation around grades.
I believe there has to be something better.
As a teacher, I believe we have a big problem. The problem sounds like this,
"My parents won't allow me to get anything other than an A."
"Student asking teacher if they are passing the class. Demonstrating the thinking that the teacher passes or fails the student and the student has to wait and see what the teacher is thinking or feeling."
"Parent seeing a C and parent thinking they are failing or that their student is doing something wrong."
"Teacher assigning the class to ask 5 questions, the student doing this and thinking they should get an A"
"My parents aren't going to be happy about this!"
"But I did everything you told me to do!"
So much of what education is for our students is doing exactly what the teacher says. No individual thinking. No assertiveness. No curiosity. Only doing exactly what the teacher says.
Doing exactly what the teacher says for every student to do, is absolutely AVERAGE.
I am in my second year of project-based learning (PBL) and with PBL, the traditional way of grading does not work. Students are developing questions, working with their teammates to break down the work needing to be done, being mindful of timelines and deadlines associated with the project, researching their questions and contacting professionals to be included in their work and going through processes of craftsmanship to give and get feedback on their projects; having all of this work come down to everyone getting an "A" dilutes all this really good work.
In life, everyone does not get an A. We know in our daily lives, there are people who are willing to go beyond the average and do more work, more detailed work, overall better work, these people are rewarded with more pay, more opportunities and/or bonuses. There has to be a way to differentiate between all the levels of work being completed in the classroom.
What makes this change even harder is that it cannot be because of luck or random actions. Students need to be aware of what actions they are taking to be successful. This means students need to be in constant reflection to identify what is working and what is not and continue to do what is working and stop or change what is not working. Once students identify what they are doing to be successful they need to be able to explain how it leads to a better product for their project.
In education circles we refer to Hattie when talking about what has the biggest impact on students and their education. According to Hattie, one of the areas (3rd place) that can have a lasting impact for students is the ability to self-report grades (1.33). This ability is developed through self-evaluation and being real about where they are in their learning process. The biggest impact on students is teachers estimates on student achievement (1.62). I believe students can blow this out of the water when they are giving no limits to what they can do to fulfill the projects. I believe I will see writing and overall projects that I could not dream up of assigning. Because I believe in our young people so much I am willing to challenge the status quo about grades and our work this year!
With writing this, I am not trying to say that I have solved this evaluation problem. I am saying that their has to be a better way to evaluate real work being done by the students. I cannot stand by and wait for someone else to do this meaningful work and hope change happens in the future. There are students doing this good work now that need a true evaluation process.
"There are two cultures in South Dakota, the white-northern European culture and the Oceti Sakowin culture. To only teach one, would give an incomplete picture of South Dakota/US history." - Gabriel Seeley
I had the awesome opportunity to attend the South Dakota Department of Education's 2018 Indian Education Summit over the last three days, Sept. 23-25, in Pierre, SD. Not only was I able to attend, I was able to present lesson plan ideas teaching the perspectives of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota.
Our district is doing some really good work in recognizing that we, collectively, native and non-native educators, need to be intentionally teaching all of our students, a complete view, of who they are and the history they are surrounded by.
We need to learn that Oceti Sakowin, Seven Council Fires, is the correct term to identify our indigenous people in the state of South Dakota. The Oceti Sakowin make up the populations of the nine Indian reservations we have located here in South Dakota.
1. Oglala Sioux
2. Yankton Sioux
3. Lower Brule
5. Cheyanne River
6. Crow Creek
7. Standing Rock
The indigenous people were thriving in North and South America before Columbus arrived. Since this arrival, the indigenous people have been intentionally treated in a way that would cause their culture and people to be erased from this land.
Fortunately, the government policies of removal and assimilation did not work and the indigenous people have their complex cultures that can teach many of us essential lessons about our connections with the land, our relationships with each other and how to live in peace.
I am so excited to start using my new learning I gained from the last three days to continue to erase racism, blatant and subtle, and build empathy and understanding of the tremendous fight our indigenous people have endured over the last 200+ years.
Ignorance is not an option.
Throughout this year, my goal is for all students to begin their journey to cultural proficiency with building understanding of the Oceti Sakowin and their rich history and culture, their collective fight to save their people and traditional land and how these peoples have so many valuable lessons to teach us today!
I have tried a new idea for me this year. My students and I just completed ten days of culture building in love, teamwork, establishing character strengths and working with the idea that we are family or tiospaye, Lakota for who you are with is family.
From my perspective, this was not easy. I would love to say that the students immediately jumped out of their seats and are running around loving each other and all they needed was me to put the idea in front of them. I would love to claim that it was a huge success.
I just do not know if it all will be a success.
I am in my sixth year of teaching and I am hoping I am the best version of myself for this school year.
I want so badly to foster a culture of love and appreciation for the human beings that we are working with on a daily basis. I want the students to know each other and accept that we are all different and that those differences are not weaknesses but strengths.
I have never attempted ten days of putting abstract concepts into motion and I have never been so tired. I am aware of the saying there is no tired like teacher tired, and the past couple of days have been really really hard.
To put love into action each student "scheduled" another student in the class on their calendar so they know who they need to meet with. Each day there may be a different prompt, today was "If you could morph into any animal, yes, I know humans are animals, you cannot choose human, what would you choose?" The students then have an opportunity to talk to the "other" students that are not in their normal circle.
To put teamwork into motion the students completed the Marble Challenge. The point of this is to work with the other members of your group to complete tasks that become harder as you complete them and get a marble from one end of the group to the other. At first students were blaming the person who dropped the marble. Then they realized that does not help someone want to be successful and most of the time nobody intentionally wants to cause the group to fail. Eventually the language became more productive and all were included in the decision process.
To put character strengths in front of the students, we watched, The Science of Character, and then completed the VIA Institute on Character's 96 question survey for the students to find their top 24 strengths. We will use these throughout the year to have a lens to determine if their actions match with who they want to be and will it help them be their best versions of themselves.
To talk about family/tiospaye, we decided on the characteristics on family that they would want or have experienced to find a common understanding when we talk about being a family. The Lakota concept of tiospaye fits perfectly into this because it means where you are is family and blood relation is a factor. All of these characteristics can and will be reinforced in the classroom setting. This is where we have to be for the next nine months.
I hope that throughout this school year my students will #boldlylove one another in their actions and words.
I have felt so down and so defeated the past couple of days. I thank my crew for speaking love and strength into me! I will not cave to the idea that I will #boldlylove throughout this year. I cannot imagine being okay with the opposite of everything that we have been working on.
I do not want to be average. Average is going through your classes and not knowing the people at the other table. Average is being okay with not knowing the people that you will spend the next nine months with. Average is being okay with not capitalizing on the amazing strengths that each and every person brings into the classroom.
I will #boldlylove
Mr. Dylan Wince
I am not a writer but I am writing. I have learned too much to not share my journey.