05 February 2012

Just thinking ...

It's been a while since I wrote a reflective post, but this week I've been doing quite a bit of reflecting. I guess writing report cards can have that effect.

I wrote all the comments about a month ago, before all the grades were finalised (this is necessary to facilitate translation into Khmer), so this week has seen a massive effort to finalise grades. The task was complicated by the death of a flash drive, taking with it much of the electronic grading that I had done (and which I hadn't backed up onto my hard drive - silly me). Fortunately, in most cases, I had a hard copy of the grades as well. Anyway, it's done now, but as I mentioned, it did motivate me to do some reflection as well.

How would I score if my students had to give me a report card. Maybe I should ask them? It would be interesting to see what they think. Meanwhile, how do I think I'd do.

Our grading system is fairly simple: 4 = Good, 3 = Satisfactory, 2 = Acceptable, and 1 = Needs Improvement. The key premise is that if a student is doing everything you ask them to do, then they get a 4.

So here are the categories and how I'd grade myself:
  • Respects teachers and friends: 3
  • Presentation of work: 4
  • Organisation of work: 4
  • Completion of work: 4
  • Completion of homework: 3
  • Attitude: 4
  • Behaviour: 4
  • Punctuality: 4
Hmmm! Now why doesn't the teacher get all fours. Well, the short answer is, that I'm not perfect. I praise God that I'm a work in progress. One area that God has been particularly nudging me on over the last month or two is the respect issue (not for teachers and friends, but for my students). I love my students very much, and generally speaking I'm fairly respectful of them. I treat them kindly and acknowledge their differences. I do my best to listen to them, and to be fair in my interactions with them. There are times though, when I'm less than respectful. Sometimes I don't give them a chance to explain why they did something they shouldn't have been doing. Sometimes I get impatient with them, when it's really not their fault. Sometimes I embarrass them in front of their classmates. Sometimes my tone of voice is harsh and unkind. I don't shout at them, but I'm not soft and gentle with them either. Do I like that I'm like this? No way!!! That sort of behaviour does not reflect Jesus well, and I truly need to be aware that for many of these students "You're the only Jesus, some will ever see."

As for completion of homework - I'm very good at procrastinating over grading some pieces of assessment, so that's an area that I need to work on. I'm way better than I used to be, but there's still room for improvement.

So where to from here. I thank God that He gently leads us to reflect on those things He wants to change in us. I know I'm a perfectionist, but I also know I'm not perfect. This week, my prayer as I start each day will be the same: Please Lord, help me show You to the children in all my actions and interactions. Please help me to be quiet and gentle with the students while still giving them clear boundaries and reasonable consequences. Please Lord, help me to be more patient.

That last line is a dangerous one. So often we hear that God has answered it by placing people in situations that further test and refine their patience rather than just magically making them more patient. I've got several situations that are testing me in that area already, so I'm also going to be trusting Him, in line with 1 Corinthians 10:13, not to give me more than I can handle in His strength.

So that's the "Behavioural and Work Habits" part of the report card. There's usually more to report cards than that. You're right. Next come the specialist subjects, which are simply graded on Listening and Participation, and finally there are sections for four of the five key academic areas (English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies). English Language Arts and Mathematics are divided by content areas plus a grade for effort, while Science and Social Studies we grade on Effort, Understanding of Concepts and Ability to Discuss concepts.

The specialist subjects are graded by the teachers who teach them, so the only one I have to worry about there is swimming, and fortunately most of my students love swimming, so it's not hard. Completing the academic section of the report cards always leads me to reflect on how I'm assessing students, and sometimes that leads to changes in assessment and record keeping practices. Each time I do it, I can usually find some way of making the record keeping more helpful for the report card writing! I think I've done that, so we'll see what happens next semester, whether my ideas were helpful or just a pain in the neck to keep up with. I'm hoping they'll be helpful.

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