Monday, October 26, 2015

A Change (not applicable for all)

This doesn't apply to most students or parents, so if you aren't used to getting - or never plan to get - below a C- in my class, you can stop reading now. Otherwise, please read on.

We have all become accustomed to being able to check grades (whether you are a student and they are yours, or you are a parent and they are the grades of your offspring) "whenever" we want. I mean, you do need an internet connection and all appropriate servers do need to be functioning.

For years digital grade books have made this possible. Now, with Canvas, it is easier than ever.
Well, "easy" maybe isn't the right word, but Canvas allows for a much more robust sense of the overall grade than ever before.

Rubrics can be built in, comments can be left - in separate parts or as a whole, engagement (what for others is "participation) can be broken down in massive detail, and then some. It's crazy how much content can be acquired regarding the content of classes here at LGHS.

Some of you never really need to fret too much about your grades as you make sure to work hard and turn every assignment in. Because of that you know that not every paper or test is worthy of an "A", but you know through experience that your grades won't be terrible if you put an appropriate effort forth.
Some of you don't exactly put an appropriate effort forth as often as you could. You know you won't ace every assignment/project/test, and you are ok with that. It happens.

In terms of my class, I know from experience that if you put a conscious effort forth you will get so much better while also having a lot more fun with the entire process. As you get better and accumulate points your grade "magically" gets - or stays - strong.

I know what you're saying, "it isn't about the grade (product), it's about the process", and I couldn't agree more. That's why you are amazing.
The good news is that if you pay attention to the process, the product will turn out just fine. Trust me, I'm a professional.

This is all a long-winded way of explaining that I am making a change.

I will no longer be emailing families with students earning lower than a C- at the end of a grading period.
The administration has requested that we teachers email each family - parent and student - at the end of each grading period to let them know if the student's grade has fallen below a C-. Actually, this "policy" has been in place for a very long time, but I want to publicly address it here.

I have been "obeying' this request every six weeks for as long as I can remember. While I never have a ton of students this concerns, I usually have six or so that are below the 70% threshold each grading period. Almost always this is due to lack of turning in work.

What most families don't know is that to email six families and explain the how and why of a low grade takes time. A month ago it took me over two hours.
This is two hours I was not able to lesson plan or build out Canvas or make a new instructional video or spend time on my art or spend time with my family.

I almost always get grades posted in Canvas within one day of assignments being turned in, and it is extremely rare for students to not have a grade and some feedback within one week of a due date.

In my experience, those families that have students earning low marks are generally aware of the type of student their child is anyway.
Those students - or families - that are not aware of a grade can only say it is because they haven't taken the time to make themselves aware. I am putting all of the information out there that I can.

If you are interested in your student's grade, please go on Canvas and have a look. Better yet, have your student go on Canvas and walk you through the interface and have a conversation with them about the system, their classes, and their grades.
Ask them what they are up to in their classes.
What are you painting for your oil painting?
What did you talk about regarding that book in English today?
Did you blow anything up in Chemistry? Why not?
You know, a conversation based on inquiry and curiosity.

I expect that a high school student that has been logging in to a website/app to see their grades for years can, and should, be well aware of how they are doing. They know when the due dates are because they are listed online, I remind them in class, and they see all of their peers turning in work on the due date.

My philosophy is that the students should take the responsibility to engage in that part of the course. I put a wealth of content out there for them to access, and they need to know how to navigate the web and be a proactive digital citizen. That's part of what they should be getting out of high school so they are all the more prepared for what they will experience once they graduate from our institution.

If you have additional questions about this change, please send me an email. I don't want to sound harsh or neglectful, and if we didn't have so much information so readily available this wouldn't be an issue, but since Canvas is so robust, well, I'm hoping you catch my drift at this point.

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