Now I don’t worry about the F because in my 5th grade room a child cannot get it as a grade. And before you throw me in the fires of being an unrealistic teacher who isn’t teaching their students what the “real” world is like, let me explain. The students I get to teach are all learning. Some faster than others, some more deeply than others, but even a child that hands in a mediocre project at best has learned something. They have garnered some sort of knowledge and that to me means they have not failed. That F is removed from the equation because it ends up being meaningless when grades are not used throughout the year. It loses its strength, its threat, and frankly I don’t miss it.
Instead we discuss strengths and goals. We conference on where the child wants to go with their learning and then hatch up a plan. I don’t talk about their weaknesses but rather what they still need to focus on, where they need to go, and then the students set their goals. I don’t. Because it is not my goal to own. I am there to participate in the conversation, to hopefully ask the right questions, but I am not there to make the final decision of which path they need to travel. I am not there to talk as much as I am there to listen.
So as I get ready to write the year end report card that I have to write, I am also getting ready to have the conversations with my kids. I am ready to ask them if 5th grade was what they hoped it would be, if they feel they have learned as much as they wanted to, if they feel ready for the next year. I even ask them if they are smart. Why? Because their answers reveal more about their coming learning journey than a grade ever could. Because to a kid being “smart” is something an adult tells you whether you are or not, and that ties directly to self-confidence and how they will tackle challenges. And when the last kid leaves on the last day of school I take all of their answers with me, wanting to become a better teacher for the next group. Wanting to serve the next set of kids even more, help them take control of their learning as much as a 5th grader can, help them set goals and then attain them. I want them to come in as learners and stay that way. Not because I threatened them into it, but because they took ownership. No F’s in this room, there simply isn’t the need for them