My first day of school is Monday. My 21st first day as a teacher. I set my classroom up (mostly), organized my lessons in my mind, went to some meetings and did some minivan karaoke on the way there. I’ve been rewriting lessons and projects and a syllabus, I could stay up all night all weekend but I am going to just write this post and then go play some guitars. I am teaching three Algebra 1 classes and one Geometry class, students at all different levels, and I mean all different levels. Our district does trimesters and students switch teachers at the trimester (not all but most) which gets in the way of relationship building but I don’t design the schedules. Anyway, because of this I have been planning three big projects each year with some smaller projects along the way as well.
I’ve taught before at a charter school for struggling kids, where grades didn’t matter. We gave grades sort of as an afterthought because society and school boards and transcripts demand them. But our principal forbade us to have a gradebook and the only grades we really gave were A’s, B’s, and F’s. Actually the F’s were “incompletes” until the student could never be brought around to fixing them. Even then, it was easy enough for them to start over again. Classes were projects with multiple credits attached, there were no subjects either, or grade levels, no “freshman” to stuff in the garbage can. We didn’t even have seating charts or teachers’ desks, or walls.
But that was then. Now I find myself back teaching in a pretty standard, 2000+ population high school in a different state, where content, subject tracking, and grades are king. I want the other thing back in my classroom though. I want kids to focus on what they are creating and learning instead of how many points they are getting. Learning should be natural and fun, not a gnarled and twisted byproduct of subjugation and compliance. Continue reading