The online grade-book with which I am saddled -- Infinite Campus -- has spaces for both grades and comments. This week, our second back from summer, I wondered:
What if I lean extra hard on the comment box as a feedback repository and only use the grade box for either a symbol indicating a task has been turned in for my review or it is missing? What if comments spotlight both strengths I notice and moves to improve the quality of the work so far? (What if my Twitter training actually helps me satisfy the character constraints in the comment field?)
What if I bounce this idea off my principal, and she sounds supportive?
What if middle schoolers and I dialogue periodically to agree on a grade reflecting as best we can their self-assessments of their work and the growth they see (or lack thereof) via our ongoing feedback loops? Grades still play, after all, particularly when formal progress-report season comes around.
What if I'm pleased by several students rising to the initial comment bait, adding quality pieces to their work (responsible citations, say) or completing incomplete tasks? What if I try this with some kind of new-fangled test rather than a low-stakes summer reading assignment?
What if some of these students aren't yet intrinsically motivated, but going round and round until they grab a gold grade ring?
What if I describe this approach to parents next week at Back to School Night? What if they later come looking for comforting grade symbols and become antsy when they find uncomfortably messy comments?
What if I'm curious to explore the possibilities of these what-ifs?
One blog topic to which I resort happens to be transportation and commuting since riding a public bus to work affords unexpected grist for this mill. Today's slice, though, finds me behind the wheel of my own vehicle about 14 hours ago.
It's the first day of school, and I'm a solo commuter -- one more drop in the fast-rising traffic waters where I live. Then, just a few minutes from home, I spy my science-teaching colleague at another bus stop. No cars behind me, I flick on the hazards, roll down the window, and make an unscheduled stop. "Want a lift?" I ask. Once the incredulity clears from his face, he accepts. Our first point of conversation is whether we'll see our history-teaching colleague, another sometime bus rider.
At the next stop, we do. So we gather a new passenger, and now we have a spontaneous carpool. We dispel nervous energy en route to meet our new students.
Now that professional responsibilities have formally resumed, I suppose summer reading must lose its seasonal qualifying adjective. To mark that occasion, here's a list of books I finished since Memorial Day (along with parenthetical notes)...
This list comprises eight works of fiction and a dozen nonfiction titles. I consumed seven as e-books, one as an audio book, and the rest as I-turned-actual-pages paperbacks or hard covers. Of the latter, two I owned and the rest I borrowed from the library.