Saturday, September 15, 2018

Google Innovator Round 2

Happy weekend, colleagues!

I blogged a year and a half ago about doing something scary and outside the box for me: I applied to become a Google Innovator. And I was rejected. I'm not going to lie, it was a blow to my ego. And it took me a year and a half to be ready to try it again. I mean, I basically had to slap myself in the face and say, "GET IT TOGETHER!"

So I did it again. I applied to be a Google Innovator.

I will say that I feel less confident this time than last because the questions they asked were very open-ended. To be honest, I don't feel like the questions were written in such a way that the people reading my application will know much about me. But it is what it is, right? I'm definitely prepared to not be accepted this time.

So what is the committee looking for? I think they want passionate, driven, and hard-working teachers, but it seems like they also want teachers that are outside the box, creative, open to change, and forward-thinking. I know that I fit that mold, but so do a lot of other teachers! Am I more innovative than other teachers? Yes, but there are plenty of other teachers that are more innovative than me. I just hope that my passion shines through!

My submission responses
Question 1. If your life had a theme song, what would it be? Up to 5 words, 50 characters
“Don’t Stop Believing”

Question 2. Explain (1) how you came up with an idea for change, (2) how you went about implementing the change, (3) how others responded to the change, and (4) how you measured outcomes. In looking back, what things would you do differently? Maximum of 500 characters.
1. I was inspired by my PLN to start a tech tips newsletter. 2. I didn’t ask for permission; I made the newsletter and posted it in the staff bathrooms. 3. My colleagues are resistant, so it hasn’t made a recognizable shift YET, but innovation is happening in small pockets. 4. I’m measuring success through teachers moving away from “sage on the stage” teaching to providing choice and voice. I wouldn't do anything different. I’m taking measured steps to move the staff towards innovation.

Question 3. Give 10 examples of things you would put in a box to give teachers around the world to transform education.
1. An iPad
2. A Chromebook
3. Green fabric (for a green screen)
4. Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess
5. A Twitter account
6. A ticket to an EdCamp event
7. Motivational quotations
8. A blog
9. Pictures of non-traditional classrooms
10. A list of metacognition educational questions 

Question 4. Advocate: Link to a piece of content you've created that you think has inspired other educators. Show us a blog, a YouTube or webinar you've done, a poster or infographic, a presentation resource, or something you're really proud of online that you'd love to share. Include your link here!
https://sites.google.com/d49.org/historicalipad  

Question 5. Grow:  If you could choose any new talent to have, what would it be and why? Maximum of 500 characters. 
If I could choose a new talent, I would be more spontaneous. I can be spontaneous in my classroom, but most of the time, I am very deliberate and calculated. I am observant and well aware of my surroundings, but I feel like it would be nice not to worry so much. And when one is spontaneous, possibilities are endless. They don’t let anything pass them by, and they choose to live for each day. No moments pass them by, and they live surrounded by beauty and inspiration. It an exciting aspiration! 

Question 6. Brief description of a challenge that you’re facing. We are looking for big thinkers who are inspired and undaunted in tackling the most difficult challenges in education. Describe a challenge you’re currently facing and why it matters. Focus on the challenge and avoid posing any solutions at this point.  [Maximum of 250 characters]
An issue I've encountered is students’ lack of awareness of local, US, and world news. Students do not watch or read the news on a neutral platform, but instead, hear about news through hyperfocused social media (if that).  

Question 7. Focus on Your User: Who is affected by your challenge and how would addressing this challenge improve their experiences? [Maximum of 250 characters]
Students, teachers, and the greater community are affected by this problem. Addressing this issue improves student awareness of the local and global community. Students then discuss with their families to improve their awareness as well. 

Question 8. We are looking to have innovators who are tackling a variety of challenges across all seven elements of our transformation framework. Which element does your challenge most resonate with? Vision, Culture, Technology, Funding and sustainability, Community Engagement, Learning, or Professional Development.
Culture 

Question 9. Innovation Video: You have 90 seconds to creatively explain a difficult challenge in education, why it matters, who it affects, and why you are well-positioned to tackle the challenge in an impactful way. Please post a public YouTube link. This is also an opportunity to let your passion and personality shine. Don't forget to change the share settings so we can view your video.

Crossing my fingers! I'll see you next week! 

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Going all in on hyperdocs!

Hello, colleagues! I've been working quite hard this year on streamlining my curriculum through the use of hyperdocs. It is by no means perfected, and I still have more work to do throughout the years, but I feel like what I've created is a great start and can help you in your classroom!

So first off... what is a hyperdoc? Hyperdocs were created by three women in the Bay area: Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis. They wanted to provide their students with a way to be curious and explore problems instead of just consuming information. A hyperdoc often looks like a Google Doc with a whole bunch of links, but it is actually so much more! The point of the document is to have students engage, explore, explain, apply, share, reflect, and extend their learning. Basically, the document covers all of Bloom's Taxonomy or the four depth of knowledge (DOK) levels.

What am I doing with hyperdocs this year? As I said previously, I wanted to streamline my curriculum, clean up my broadcasting I and II curriculum, and also design curriculum for a new class: advanced broadcasting. I use backwards design (Understanding By Design) to plan out my units. I start with the end goal in mind, then plan out all of the steps necessary to get to the end goal. I wanted everything for the unit to be in one location and include all of the objectives that I am using with my students. A unit hyperdoc will look something like this:



How are the Hyperdocs working? I think they're going pretty well! Students are responding well to the documents (not that they know any different), and they are well aware that everything is in one location. Funny enough, they've enjoyed the different colors that I've made them in - I heard a student say, "What color is the document this time?!"

My goal for the year was to have every unit in a hyperdoc (BOY curriculum for broadcasting I and II and all units for advanced broadcasting). I would like to build hyperdocs for each week of broadcasting, but that's a work in progress that may not be accomplished by the end of the year. They're not a priority because I have to make new hyperdocs every week, every semester, every year. I just have to change the links, which is time-consuming, but is also not a priority... not yet.

I also know that my hyperdocs are incredibly basic. They are interactive, but they aren't as engaging as I would like. I need to add images, and I also need to add some extra pieces to make my hyperdocs more:

  • Exploratory: students aren't exploring a topic as thoroughly as I'd like. This probably should be done through screencasts, Youtube videos, and readings. 
  • Reflection: I have the students fill out a feedback form after watching the broadcast each week, but each of the units also needs to have a part where my students think about their learning. I could do this through Padlet, but I want it to have more meaning instead of just being "another step" in the process.
  • Extended learning: I'm not entirely sure what to do here, at least for a broadcasting hyperdoc. Part of the issue is that my classes are only 45 minutes, and we're definitely set to deadlines. It's almost like we don't have time for this piece. Instead, the high schools should take on this piece (or my advanced broadcasting class should). I need to think through THIS step. 
  • Critical thinking and problem solving: these two pieces are built into my classes already, but I don't necessarily feel like they are built into the hyperdocs. Once again, I am still thinking through this step... potentially for next year!
So what is the next step beyond just broadcasting? I've been asked to run two teacher "Tech Thursdays" in which I provide training for the staff. I sent out a Google Form to find out what teachers would like training on. I then took the responses and started designing training hyperdocs. They are currently WOEFULLY incomplete, but I'm not presenting until October 25th, so I have time to complete them and make them interactive!

I do wish that I learned about hyperdocs while I was still teaching Social Studies. I definitely would have designed similar hyperdocs to what I am doing right now. I think it would have provided sufficient context for my students when it came to learning about a) historical information and b) how everything "fit" together.

Thanks for reading! I hope this week's blog gave you a little inspiration to check out hyperdocs and potentially use them in your own classroom! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Goals for iObservation

Good morning, colleagues! The school year is in full swing with a three-day Labor Day holiday! Can't believe that I've had four weeks of four-day work-weeks in a row! (A tiny bit ridiculous, right?!) Now that the school year has really started, it's time to set goals for the school year and for our growth plan.

Our district uses iObservation, which is a professional growth website designed by Learning Sciences International. LSI is partnered with Marzano evaluation tools which is what our district uses. I just completed my growth plan for the year with two goals.

1. My focused element is #2: tracking student progress. I'm pretty sure that this was a goal I used in the past, but I did a pretty terrible job with it as a teacher (and saw little growth with my students). Now that I'm in my second year as a broadcasting teacher, I really want to see improvement from my students to have strong broadcasts throughout the year. My plan for tracking student progress through formative assessments is as follows:
  • The first broadcast is set for September 14th. On the 14th, after watching the broadcast (and potentially throughout the following week), I will conference with students individually. I will show them their first scale grade, discuss their baseline knowledge of broadcasting, and have them set a specific broadcasting goal (one goal for improvement and a discussion about their strength to be in). I will post these goals/strengths as post-its on my classroom cabinet where they can see them at any time (necessary for the third bullet point below!)
  • I will check in with students three times through the remaining semester: October 4th, November 9th, and December 14th. I will be charting students’ scaled grades on individual progress reports and on a whole class report. When I conference with students on those days, we will discuss their progress on their goal and strength, and we will discuss their progress compared to their colleagues’ progress. 
  • We watch the broadcast every Friday, so I will add a question to the feedback form where they reflect on their progress towards their goal and strength based on that week’s video. 
  • At the end of the semester, students will post on their digital portfolios with their best and their favorite segments from the semester. They will also publish their individual progress report and reflect on their goal and the strength for the semester. 
Is this a lofty goal? Maybe. But I think it could make for real progress with my students in my class. 

2. My personal goal is to work on building my advanced broadcasting curriculum this year (as it is brand new and I'm making it up as I go). I'm turning my curriculum into interactive hyperdocs so that the curriculum is available to them as we go through the units. It will take me all year to build the hyperdocs, so I'm hoping to have the hyperdocs all completed by the first day of the last unit of the year, April 8. Example of these hyperdocs: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1lYGDJyJoF6JnaGHiEMbN_bBiNi55MkInQd7vn9x8-q4/edit?usp=sharing

The lovely thing about our growth plan this year, different from previous years, is that we are reading The New Art and Science of Teaching book together in our large team meetings. It gives real purpose to our meetings (instead of meeting just to meet) and gets us thinking and talking about the Marzano elements. I'm also glad that we are only focused on one target instead of three (in previous years). I really feel like I can use my growth plan, for the first time in thirteen years, to actually see growth in my class instead of checking something off the list. 

As your school year gets into full swing, think about what your goals are for the year. Are they personal? Are they professional? And also think about the purpose of your goals - are they for you, for your students, or for the "higher-ups"?

Enjoy your three day weekend! Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Who are you?

Hello, colleagues!

I was chatting with a friend, confidant, and close colleague earlier this week, and we were having a conversation about education and burn-out. It definitely tied into what I blogged about last week! We were discussing that teaching is what we do, but is not the only part of who we are. We were both stressed out and sharing our frustrations. I mentioned how I missed two days of school because I was in New York City! Context: my sister and I are ridiculous Harry Potter NERDS, and she got two tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I told her that whenever she got tickets, I would fly in and be there. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Was I supposed to say no because the school year already started? Yes, I am a teacher, but I am also a nerd and a traveler. I want to see beautiful things in the world. I wasn't sad that I missed school for a fantastic opportunity - I was stressed because I had a lot to make up because I was gone.

If we let teaching take up every piece of our humanness, then we cannot escape when education goes south, when we have a bad day or week or month... I finally figured this out like three or four years ago. Someone told me that if I died tomorrow, there would be another person to replace me.

I would implore you, as part of your self-care routine, to figure out who you are and who you want to be. Being an educator cannot be the only person that you are.

I am a wife. I have a husband who is also a teacher. We have to make time for each other because we're both teachers and education can take up a massive chunk of our time if we let it. We have hobbies together, and we have hobbies that don't match. He is my confidant, he is my person. Without him, I would lead a lonely life.

I am a daughter, sister, and aunt. My family means more to me than almost anything else. If they need me, I should be able to drop everything and get to them.

I am a friend. My friends are my Colorado family. They are the people that make me laugh and get my introverted self out of the house for a drink or a movie.

I am a photographer. I see the world slightly different than the average person. I know how to capture the beauty around me and share it with the masses. I am in my happy place, by myself, with a camera in hand.




I am an out-of-shape athlete. Sometimes I need to spend an hour in nature. Sometimes I need to spend an hour in a hot yoga room. Sometimes I need to spend an hour in the pool. In each of these cases, I tune out everything else around me and focus on the task at hand. The "assignment" might be to not break an ankle on a rock, to not vomit while attempting camel position, or do a perfect streamline off a wall with a powerful dolphin kick.

I am a musician. I can sing. I have perfect pitch. I have specific songs that will change my mood no matter what and I have songs that will make me dance the moment I hear them. Music transforms me in a way like nothing else.

I am a pop culture junkie. I like to read the news and also the "hot goss." I want to be informed so that I can converse with others. I troll Twitter for seriousness and hilarity. I enjoy seeing what celebrities are wearing to movie openings. I fancy taking Buzzfeed quizzes and sharing my results with others.

I am a traveler. I want to see the world. I want to photograph beautiful places. I want to try new foods, and I want to experience new cultures. I love being from Iowa and I love living in Colorado - I have a distinct idea of where home is. I want to, however, experience more than just home base.

This weekend, make a list. Decide who you are and what is essential. Take care of yourself and remember that you are a teacher, but you are also so much more. Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Expectations vs. Reality

Good morning colleagues! Welcome back to the 2018-2019 school year! I still can't believe that I've been back in school for seven days (and have been reporting since July 27th). I feel like there's so much to talk about, but so little time to do so! So my focus for this week is expectations for you in your job. 

I started thinking about expectations sometime last week as I was preparing for the first (of three) iPad parent night. As I was putting everything together, I realized that some of the tasks were completed by someone else last year. I haven't heard anything from this teacher, and it was too last minute to ask for help. I chatted with my principal and said, "Is this now my job?" She said, "I think it is now, yes." 

I was STRESSED. This wasn't something that I was prepared for, but, knowing it was a non-negotiable item, I knew it had to be done by me. Did I get it put together? Yes. Did I do a good job? Of course because I have really high expectations for myself. I also know that having high expectations for myself leads to burn out.

Have you ever met a teacher that is really, really burned-out? Like they do everything but utterly despise their job? That was me a few years ago. I felt like there was an expectation that I must do a, b, and c. Later, I realized, I was putting that pressure on myself. There were no expectations placed on me. I've had to recognize that I am my own worst critic, I am often a perfectionist, and I set unnecessary stress on myself. 

Since identifying those behaviors, I've met with teachers to talk to them about their stresses and behaviors. I tell teachers that they need to decide what is integral to their job and their classroom and that they need to rank the importance. What is non-negotiable? What do you WANT but know you need more time? What is extra that you can look at later in the year? 

Giving others the same advice, I realized that I should make my own non-negotiables for my classroom and my job. Basically, I'm setting goals for myself for the school year. 

So I would ask you to ponder these questions... Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself? Do you find yourself spending too much time at school or doing school work at home? Have you figured out what is most important so that you complete that first? 

If not... why not? 

Thanks for reading! I'll see you in two weeks (I'll be in New York City next weekend!) :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Advice for new teachers

Hello, colleagues!

Graduation is upon us! I love this time of year because the weather is (usually) pleasant, people are all nostalgic, and teachers are reflecting on the end of the year. Last weekend I was perusing Buzzfeed when I came across an article with advice, for new teachers, from experienced teachers. That really inspired me to share some information that I have for new teachers. Even though I don't know everything about teaching (I've only been teaching twelve years),  I have learned a lot over the years and can often anticipate what will go wrong ahead of time.

So here is what I think new teachers need to know about teaching.
  1. Expect to want to quit. Teaching is HARD. You don't realize how difficult education is until you have your own classroom. You have to be "on" as a teacher every moment of every day. It's exhausting. Compound that with learning new teaching strategies, with building curriculum, and with the massive amounts of grading that you have. You will have days where you're at school until six, and you find yourself falling asleep as you drive home, and then you wake up on the couch with a full glass of wine that you forgot to drink. It will wear you out and will eventually make you want to quit. But if teaching is what you want to do, and you know you still love, don't leave. Know that the longer that you teach, the better your arsenal or strategies and lessons will get. You won't have to prep as much. And if you combine that with effective grading policies, it will get easier. 
  2. Find a healthy work-life balance. This is something that every teacher struggles with, myself included. But it is achievable. I'm someone who separates my professional and personal lives quite a bit, so I try to keep school work at school. I realized over time that I couldn't grade at home for both struggling to work at home and because I needed the separation. But it's not healthy to stay at school incredibly late either. I made a rule for myself that I would work, at school, every day until 4. I would leave school at 4, and whatever wasn't done, wasn't done. This also helped me learn to prioritize what work was essential. I also visited new and charming coffee shops in town on Saturdays where I would also do school work and get caught up from the previous week. This schedule allowed me to have my weeknights for reading or watching tv, it promised me Friday and Saturday nights for going out to eat and spending time with my husband and friends, and gave me a full Sunday for grocery shopping, watching football, and meal prep for the week. 
  3. Reach out to your PLN. PLN stands for personal learning network. This network is where you learn everything that you can about teaching. My PLN consists of my very close colleague friends, in-building colleagues that I admire, other teachers that I've met through trainings and classes, and teachers that I follow on Twitter. I insist on being around other teachers that are like-minded but push me to think and work outside my bubble. A new teacher will probably struggle with finding a PLN to start, but a new teacher should find a mentor in-building. This mentor should guide them through what they need to know about the school but also about being a new teacher. A new teacher may want to find more than ONE mentor. I've been lucky enough to mentor new (and not new teachers) because they believed I had the information that they were looking for. A new teacher should also sign up for Twitter ASAP. It's a perfect (and relatively safe) way to ask any and every question!
  4. Build relationships with your students. This is something that I still struggle with (it's easily my biggest weakness as a teacher). Get to know your kids. Find out what they like. Try to build real-world "stuff" into your curriculum as much as possible. Talk to your kids. Listen to your kids. Give them your time and your attention. Be a parent, a counselor, a friend, and an adult. Give them advice. Sometimes repeat that advice over and over. Stick up for them. Tell them when they're wrong but admit when you're wrong too. Forgive and forget. Remember that every day is a new day. Believe that every student can succeed (even if they fail your class). 
  5. Don't be afraid of making mistakes and don't be fearful of jumping into the deep end. I make mistakes EVERY day! I've told students to "tap that" (when talking about iPads), I've said some unsavory things to students in anger, and I've gotten defensive to parents when they have simple questions. I've also learned how to incorporate iPads into classrooms, I've built curriculums from scratch (twice!), and I've presented at local and national conferences. As a teacher, you must take risks to grow and mature. As you do so, you will make mistakes, and some of them will be terrible. But you have to evolve and change. Being a stagnant teacher isn't great. In your class, students will stop engaging and will start being compliant. 
  6. Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. Sometimes you have to start small to get big. This was probably one of the most frustrating things for me to learn. I wanted to be an excellent teacher right away. I wanted everything to be perfect (and easy). That's just not how teaching is. I think I realized this when doing flipped learning. I was never trained in flipped learning, and sort of stumbled and bumbled my way through. It was when I was explaining to another teacher about the process when she said, "It's just so easy for you." I told her that I needed five years to really grasp flipped learning in my classroom, and I realized it took me FIVE YEARS. Even now, with broadcasting, I've designed a great base that I can use for the remaining years to come, but there's still more to do. As I see new students and realize what skills they're lacking, I then have to design new lessons and create new quizzes. I want to self-pace a lot of my curriculum. I need to differentiate my curriculum for new special needs students. I want to change my work into Hyperdocs so that it's all located in one place. But I can't do all that this summer. I can do bits and pieces so that my curriculum evolves over time. 
Other advice that I have for teachers? 
  • Learn about different DOK (depth of knowledge) levels and don't be afraid to challenge your students. 
  • Understand what differentiation is. You will have students at all levels, and you need to meet them where they are. That includes ELD and SPED students. 
  • Sometimes you just need to throw your lesson plans out the window.  
  • Be the adult in the room.
  • Watch other teachers teach. 
Thanks for reading! I hope that you all have a lovely summer! I'll see you next school year :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Saturday, May 19, 2018

End of year reflections

Good morning, colleagues! This week I was sitting and watching my students collaborate while making their broadcasting segments. I realized, now that it's the end of the year, that I should probably blog about how my school year went!

I had some large shoes to fill in my the broadcasting position. The teacher who left, to become a full-time filmmaker, was beloved by the students and set an excellent precedent for the job. I knew that I wanted to put my own touch on the broadcast, so my focus for the year was to have students design stories that involved as many Skyview students as possible. Here's what went well:

All three classes worked together to produce the weekly broadcast. I set up a Google Doc script at the beginning of the year. The doc was accessible by all three of my classes. This allowed all three groups to work together to design the script because they could all see each others' work. This also drummed up excitement as students saw other ideas, were inspired, and then pitched concepts to me for later broadcasting segments.

Students had choices when picking weekly stories. Because I have three classes, I didn't want to favor one more than the other. Every week a different group picked "first" for broadcast segments. Students selected their top three choices for the videos (using a Google Form), then I put them into groups based on their decisions. 99% of the time the students got one of their top three choices. Because I rotated which class picked first, everyone got their first choice at some point (including being anchors!). Also, if a student or group pitched a topic to me, I ensured that they got that idea as their first choice.

The script layouts worked really well. I ended up having to build brand new scripts for Broadcasting 2.0. I knew when making the scripts that students would need guidance and structure, but I still wanted students to always have the ability to present their voice. I realized, over time, that some stories were very similar. I recognized that I could build a script template that could be reused over and over. I then put together that I could grade those scripts the same way! Once I developed a model, then I would plan a Marzano scale for proficiency grading. The script template gave the students structure for what they needed for proficiency but was flexible enough to allow for student creativity.

There were new students on the broadcast each week. To get student and teacher "buy-in," I created a Google Form that teachers would use to sign up their classes for the weekly show. Part of the video included teacher and student interviews. I would work with my students each week to pick new students that have not been on the broadcast. Then, to build community, I would have my students put the interviewee's name on the screen. That is a start to how people get to know each other. First, you have to learn their name. I also partnered with Yearbook to have access to their photos. We did a photo slideshow every week as a) a preview of the yearbook at the end of the year and b) so that more students could see themselves in the broadcast.

More school stories. As I said in my previous section, the broadcast is meant to build a community in the school. When dealing with middle school students, we have to walk a fine line between creativity, being outlandish, focusing on the school, and not being boring! I knew it was important for students to see themselves in the broadcast instead of just the broadcasting kids. I knew it was essential to design stories that focus on what's happening in the school. But I also want to honor MY students and provide them with the opportunity to be creative and have choice and voice. When I put the broadcast script together, I would always include some sort of original video. Even though a video is creative, if it's about a topic that the kids care about, then it will matter to everyone, though it may not be school related.

Added extra touches. I wanted kids to take ownership while also learning about all of the different jobs that are required to make a broadcast. I taught all of my students how to use GarageBand on the computer and iPad. I wanted students to design music so that, in some cases, they take ownership of the video they are creating. I also taught my students twenty-three different camera shots to try to add variety to the videos they produce. I also added extra school information like sports scores and daily announcements. My colleague who does daily announcements even thanks the broadcasting kids on Friday for saying them! I wanted to make sure my students were still seen in the broadcast, so they put the credits at the end of the show on top of videos of them dancing or being silly. I even let them put bloopers at the end of the broadcast for extra fun.

All in all, this year was a success for my students and for myself. I never thought that I would have a job in broadcasting (especially after eleven years as a social studies teacher), but I was excited to have this opportunity. I'm just taking it all in!

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Grading Policies Evolved

Hello, colleagues! Are you guys tired? I know I am - it's the end of the year, and I just spent eight hours at our last track meet of the season yesterday. I'm also frustrated... we had students that couldn't compete in the competition because they were ineligible. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm a teacher more than I'm a coach, so I've seen it all through my own classes. Students do fail assignments which cause them to fail classes. I've also had students fail my class and be ineligible. However, one thing I noticed this year is students failing a class due to strange grading practices.

Instead of blogging about what I think my colleagues are doing "wrong," I'm going to post about grading practices that I've changed over the years due to reflection and research.

1. No zeroes. A zero in the grade book implies that a student has LITERALLY DONE NOTHING. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Is that ever the case? Sometimes, sure. I've given kids zeroes on flipped learning because they never started it. Other than flipped learning, I did not give students a zero. If you look at a standard grading scale, an F is between a 0 - 59%. That is an enormous gap. If a student does not turn in an assignment, they still did work in class. Did they do 59% of the work? Usually, they did more, but just didn't turn in the assignment! A student should not fail a class because of one task. Give students a chance to be successful even if they didn't complete one project.

2. No late grades. Students have all sorts of reasons for turning in work late, stemming from them not wanting to do the task, to having a sibling get sick, or due to a family celebration. Should a student be penalized an arbitrary 10% because they turned an assignment in one day late? I don't think so! If students can prove that they know the information, and they meet the criteria of the rubric, then they deserve a better grade, even if it's overdue.

3. More formative assessments. Does this mean I should get rid of summative assessments? Absolutely not; they have a time and a place. Should a kid's grade suffer because of one test for an entire quarter? That's a tough one, but I would argue that it's also crucial that a teacher checks for understanding throughout the unit. Those checks should also be considered assessments, even if they are formative assessments. I would always know if a student would fail ahead of time because of all of the checkpoints that were done along the way. Also, if a student demonstrates quality understanding on a past formative assessment, then the grade should be changed. The student may have achieved proficiency at a later date, but they still exhibited mastery of the content.

4. No more "fluffy" grades. Students do not receive participation points. All students have to participate in my class whether it's by raising their hand or collaborating with a colleague. I also stopped grading assignments based on how they looked. My rubrics would have one category for "basic requirements" (like a specific minimum time or that it had the 10 pieces of criteria), but all of the other categories were based on research and content presented. Do I want a pretty project turned in? Sure, but I also want the students to show me and tell me what they know and what they learned.

5. Behavior does not equal achievement. Every day is a new day. Students act out for various reasons. There is no reason to "punish" a student by giving them a low grade. Grades should be reflective of student achievement, not student behavior. Yes, we want our students to be able to communicate, collaborate, be creative, and think critically. Human beings learn through practice, so if you want your students to learn to communicate, give them time to talk. Students don't need a grade to know if they can talk to other people.

The problem with sharing this information is that I definitely sound like an insufferable know-it-all. Do I have all of the answers? NO! I've evolved as an educator over the last twelve years (and will continue to grow as I teach). I just feel like these changes made a difference in my classroom. I want all students to have the capacity for success to have a promising future.

Thanks for reading! I'll see you next week :)

- Rachel
My Teacherspayteachers website