Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What's the meaning of these marks?

Political cartoons are often funny because they hold a healthy dose of truth, and this one is no exception. I can remember living in fear as a child and later on as a teacher that someone, somewhere was waiting to scold or reprimand me for the grades I had "earned" or the grades I was assigning.

The point of this cartoon isn't that things have changed a lot since 1961; in fact, it's quite the opposite -- the point here is to ask why has so little changed?

The expressions in the comic should tell us all we need to know about how little things have changed. While the smug teacher and fearful child have exchanged roles, the parents remain angry.

A work or learning environment that is built on a foundation of smugness, fear and anger is destined for failure. So what is the source of all these destructive and counter-productive feelings?

The Grade Book.

Teaching and learning has been hijacked by testsandgrades. The entire system is driven to distraction. In many ways its rotten at the core. We've confused measurement with assessment and forgotten that the root word for assessment is assidere with translates into 'to sit beside'. We've come to see assessment as a spreadsheet when it's really a conversation.

Testsandgrades were originally tools used by teachers, but today teachers are tools used by testsandgrades. This shouldn't come as any surprise, especially if you are familiar with some of Marshal McLuhan's work who once said:
We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.
Testsandgrades are instruments of control that merely garnish short-term compliance at a time when what we really need is engagement. This is precisely why professional learning communities that are driven by testsandgrades are prisons for teachers made by teachers.

The less time and effort you spend with students the greater the urge and perceived need to rely on testsandgrades.  Teachers who rely on a spreadsheet during parent-teacher interviews, and parents who demand to see the spreadsheet, are all the proof we need that reductionist data such as testsandgrades excuses adults from playing an authentic and active role in their children's education.

Ultimately this comic should teach us that whether you are proud of high testsandgrades or ashamed of low ones, you are perpetuating the problem.

5 comments:

  1. Every time I read one of your entries Joe I tell myself I have to check in on you more often. You have such a wonderful, logical perspective, one I am sure that gets you butting heads all the time with "old guard".

    There is a disregard for logic in all aspects of life these days. We have outdone ourselves in making things more confusing and convoluted than ever before and nowhere is it more prevalent that in the schools.


    Yesterday I watched our principal tell child who is 5 minutes late everyday that she will have to give back the time missed back by staying in at recess. The little girl is in grade one, she is six years old. She was scared and humiliated and wept big tears for at least ten full minutes.

    The working mother has two kids to drop off and he is doing her best.

    If we want to teach respect and punctuality, fine, then obviously the conversation has to happen with the mother. I get that part.

    The child is not in charge of the family schedule but nonetheless had to endure one of those confusing and terrifying moments we have a children when ill advised adults behave in a way we did not expect and our trust is undermined.

    It goes to everything you comment on Joe and all the things we see that outweigh the good that still happens in our schools. Will transformation of the system take place during my children's lifetime Joe?

    With admiration,
    Patti

    ReplyDelete
  2. Every time I read one of your entries Joe I tell myself I have to check in on you more often. You have such a wonderful, logical perspective, one I am sure that gets you butting heads all the time with "old guard".

    There is a disregard for logic in all aspects of life these days. We have outdone ourselves in making things more confusing and convoluted than ever before and nowhere is it more prevalent that in the schools.


    Yesterday I watched our principal tell child who is 5 minutes late everyday that she will have to give back the time missed back by staying in at recess. The little girl is in grade one, she is six years old. She was scared and humiliated and wept big tears for at least ten full minutes.

    The working mother has two kids to drop off and he is doing her best.

    If we want to teach respect and punctuality, fine, then obviously the conversation has to happen with the mother. I get that part.

    The child is not in charge of the family schedule but nonetheless had to endure one of those confusing and terrifying moments we have a children when ill advised adults behave in a way we did not expect and our trust is undermined.

    It goes to everything you comment on Joe and all the things we see that outweigh the good that still happens in our schools. Will transformation of the system take place during my children's lifetime Joe?

    With admiration,
    Patti

    ReplyDelete
  3. Patti, it's sad how often adults will justify doing horrible things to kids in the name of teaching them a lesson...

    ReplyDelete
  4. And not intentionally Joe, this is a good woman and a mother and yet common sense seemed to be beyond her grasp... yes, very sad.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I know many good teachers do silly or even cruel things to kids in the name of education.

    I've messed up many times.

    Just goes to show that we must be acutely aware of the intended and unintended consequences that arise from even our most subtle actions.

    ReplyDelete

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