Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Evil is spelled G.R.A.D.E.S

As we were saying goodnight, my son said, "Do I have to go to school tomorrow?" I usually respond with my eye-rolling "of course" when he added, "I hate school." This is not news to any parent of a 13 year old, but I wondered why this is considered normal for a kid that does "alright" academically and enjoys the social side of school. When I questioned him more about it, he explained what he really hates is the homework. His logic went like this: if he misses a day, he doesn't know what's for homework and then he gets a break from it. He said 8 hours a day should be enough work. 

I follow several educational blogs that range from "we need to up our academic expectations" to "we need to allow more student autonomy". I think both sides of the argument are getting it wrong. It's the evil GRADES that cause the love of learning to die an early death for most of us. Grading is the root of many of our issues with classroom management (engagement, motivation, collaboration), no deep reading or discussions, covering curriculum, testing, no thinking/reflection time, and homework load. As teachers, it's hard to tell our son to ignore the grades, but we have done just that this year. When he got his report card, we discussed his effort in each class and how he felt about the learning; we didn't talk about the grades.

Science ClassThis all leads to my hero, Alfie Kohn. What happens if we take away the stickers and detentions (A's and F's)? If the distraction of pleasing the teacher or getting the "A" was removed, would the students be more motivated to learn? It might be hard work, but learning to simply gain knowledge or to sate our curiosity fills a desire inside each of us. Kohn has changed my world view on education and parenting in such a way that I feel lucky to be at an IBO school. It is philosophically aligned with much of what Kohn promotes. This is not to say that we aren't still doing many things that are inherent to any institutionalized educational system, but we are definitely further along the "enlightenment" continuum.

But first we have to stop the evil Higher Education ACCREDITING bodies and their constant inflation of qualifications...but that's another blog. 

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1 comment:

  1. Yes, yes, yes - and next on my list to read: DRIVE by Daniel Pink - which furthers the argument that grades are the furthest thing from motivators.