Students and I are running through the semester's end game, reviewing expectations for what they're collecting in their digital portfolios and how their grades will reflect those components, when eighth-grader Thomas speaks up. "I put together this spreadsheet if any of you are interested," he says, or words to that effect. "Let me know if you want me to share it. It can help you determine what you need to do to reach your grade goals."
I follow up with Thomas, and he shows me how his table crunches together individual elements to demonstrate whether students' standard-by-standard performance is or isn't on track for their desired finish line. (He's made a grade-book sandbox!) If a con in this system is some students calculating to the fraction of a point what's the least they need to do to achieve what they deem success, I figure the pro is more students feeling like savvy, informed players of the game. I'm calling Thomas' ingenuity and independence, not to mention willingness to share his hack with others, a win.
A second win reveals itself in a conference with another eighth grader, Evan. He's describing progress he's noticed this year in his speaking skills, and he reminds me of a connection we had talked about earlier between performing music (a passion of his) and making formal presentations at school. He tells me how it finally clicks for him: how he can get in a speaking 'zone' that resembles how he feels playing music. When it's time to speak in school, he's now less self-conscious as he lets his words, gestures, and voice work together more freely to convey his message. Even without a guitar, he channels the feeling of being a rock star who commands the stage. I'm calling that win number two.
While the ends of school years are frenetic, they're also time to celebrate learners who continue putting valuable pieces together. (Another Slice of Life blogger reminded me of that today.)