I first gave up on percentages the day I found myself overriding a student’s average and changing their grade to something else. Mind you that average was calculated by me on worksheets I had assigned. I remember erasing the letter I had written, so meticulously calculated, and then arguing with myself over whether I had the right to do so. Would anyone know that I had changed the grade to more accurately reflect what they knew and that it was no longer based on an average? Would I get busted for this? I felt like such a fraud.
Today I asked my students to once again assess themselves. Assign 4 through 1 to their learning in all subjects and then hand it in to me. The numbers are not my invention but rather my district’s take on standards based grading and so that portion is out of my hands, it is the end of the trimester so report cards must be written. I gave them their previous report card, also filled out by them. I gave them an explanation of what the categories meant and then I gave them time to evaluate. They thought, they asked questions. and then they handed them in. Yet some people may wonder why I bother?
I don’t have them write their own grades because I’m lazy. It is not because I don’t know how I would assess them. It is not to give them a fake sense of control. Or a fake sense of ownership.
I do it so it is their voice that is heard when they are judged. So that their input determines where they are and where they need to go. I do it because every time there is a surprise. A child always evaluates themselves differently than I would, and it is in that difference that some of our most revealing discussions take place. This is where a child reveals their broken self esteem, this is where a child reveals their confusion, their lack of belief in their own capabilities. This is where a child shows that they perhaps are less clued in then they have led me to believe. Or where they prove to me how much they know but were too afraid to share. It is within these conversations that my students truly take control of their learning journey and set the goals. It is where they find their mistakes and take ownership. It is where they realize what they have mastered, how far they have grown. It is where we celebrate their successes and think about our failures.
I may not be a believer in grades, but I will always believe in the power of a good conversation. These conversations shape the next trimester, the next month, the next day. These shape the journey my students continue to take. My students know that I am not the only one assessing them, they have someone else that is much tougher than me; themselves. And they don’t want to let that person down.