Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Final Reckoning

I’m handing in the grades for my Foundations class this morning on my way home from my chiropractor appointment. In the final counting, just under half of the students failed the course.

When I factored in all the lab work that DID get done, I ended up with 7 out of 17 students with scores below the 60% necessary to pass. I’m sure, at some point, I’ll get into a whole, long sermon about what I think about 60% being a passing grade, but I just don’t have it in me to fight that particular battle at the moment. Suffice to say that I don’t think that getting the right answer once more than half the time constitutes sufficient skill, in college OR real life. I’m pretty sure - though I’d have to ask my mathematically inclined friends - that you can beat that percentage just by guessing.

What I’m really tripping about is the fact that - against my better judgment and contrary to what I stated at the outset of the course - I gave the students until last night to finish the lab work they owed me - and damned near NONE of them did it. If more of the students had actually availed themselves of that opportunity - only two did - many more would have passed. As it was, the two that went back and did the work they needed to do managed to squeak OUT of failing; they brought their grades up over the requisite 60% and, as a result, don’t have to do this again. The rest of them? Don’t sell your book back to the bookstore just yet, kids - it’s going to come in handy in 12 weeks when the new English term starts up again.

So! What did *I* learn while teaching this class? Well, I learned - or, rather, had reconfirmed for me - that this is definitely what I want to do. I had a BLAST. I love the job and really want to keep doing it. I also learned that going back on my hard-ass deadline-or-die policy is a bad idea. The work is due when it’s due, period. If I don’t have it when I asked for it, it may not be handed in later. Tracking down all the different labs that people owed me the night before grades were due was just exhausting, and I’m not interested in doing that again. Finally, I learned that, even if I can’t reach EVERYONE, I can reach a few. I really connected with at least two - possibly three - students in the class. I TAUGHT them something. Light bulbs went off. There’s little that’s more satisfying than seeing the proverbial light dawn.

It’s a high, and I’m an addict.


Blogger Kizz said...

Pony Express is generally not a sports fan. She was outraged to learn that in baseball if you're batting over .300 you're pretty much a hall of famer. She rant goes on for days, "So, you're telling me that if I go in and do my job a third of the time, just a THIRD, then I'm a genius? This is nuts! If I went into work and did my job just a third of the time I'd be fired so fast I couldn't even comprehend!"

November 02, 2006 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Derek said...

I've just poked in on your blog, and I really like it so far. I'm a teacher-to-be/actual teacher, and all the experience I can glean from other teachers if much needed.

November 02, 2006 10:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Kizz, this is EXACTLY my point. We've raised mediocrity to such a level that we praise those who can do better than 60%. It's just WRONG, and I'm going to spend the better part of my professional life trying to find ways to point this out to the Powers That Be.

Derek, welcome! This is why I started this site - I wanted to get insight that came from outside my own little experience. Come back often, and let me know what you're thinking. I'm a better teacher - and a better person - for having the other voices to learn from.

November 02, 2006 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Contrary said...

I'm so glad you're happy. You worked hard and deserve it!

I do have to say that comparing baseball to schoolwork (or any other kind of work) isn't really going to work, unless you were throwing assigments at them at 100mph. :)

November 02, 2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger Wayfarer said...

I'll pipe in quickly (because I have only that much time) to say that, at my school, kids don't earn credit for classes unless they complete work at what most schools would consider a solid B or better. The way we do it, students have to meet every standard for the class in a way that says they really know what they need to. It's very empowering for me as a teacher because I don't have to feel like 60% of anything is adequate, and the students appreciate (though they may complain from time to time) that there's no shortcuts. If you know it and you can show you know it in more than one way, then you get credit. If you can't, you go back and do it over again (and again, and again, for as long as necessary) until you can.

November 02, 2006 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

Guessing can, based on a non-scientific study of a statistically insignificant sample, net you as much as 33 percent on a selected response test.

When I was student teaching, we had a bunch of kids who "Christmas tree'd" the tests, guessing randomly, occasionally creating a pattern on the bubble sheets that resembled a pine tree. Many of them were quite proud of their ability to guess randomly.

We handed them each an answer sheet, and then scored a practice SAT test from a manual. The highest score was 33 percent, the lowest was near zero.

The kid with the 33 was quite proud of his score; but that's just sad.

November 02, 2006 10:32 PM  

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