How to Slay the Grading Dragon

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