Trees for the wood…

Today I had a different kind of “I want to do better” meeting with a student after school. Yesterday a student emailed me asking if she could take a test again. This stems from the handful of students who decided to go back and review work they decided needed some more practice. When a feeling of mastery takes over their mathematical souls, they would take another version of the first test. To me, this is fair and the MYP is about progress, not averaging scores.

Head in Hands

Head in Hands by Alex E. Proimos licenced under CC by A

This however was a request to go from a 7 to an 8, out of 8.

She had scored in the highest band of the criterion.

She had displayed a thorough understanding.

She took her test home.

She showed her parents.

Not good enough. You are so careless.

Look at these mistakes.

These mistakes you shouldn’t make.

So she (they) asked for a retest, because her fantastic test was a disappointment to her parents.

I know my parents read my blog from time to time. So, if you are there, here I am publically saying THANK YOU. Thanks for letting me be me and celebrating my successes, which weren’t always about being perfect. Thank you for not saying “Only 90%?! What’s wrong with you?”, things were assessed differently back then.

This student and I talked about how she felt she was going. She spouted more parental jibes:

I am not organised.

I need to focus more.

I shouldn’t make silly mistakes.

She is only thirteen. It was time for the child to get some buckets of praise poured over her. In my eyes she is a focused, keen, clever and determined young woman. Her progress is steady and impressive and I am very proud of her. It was also time to remind her that mistakes are okay to make. A teacher in my school in Hong Kong, way back in the ‘80s, used to rejoice when my incredibly gifted friend Tien-Yi didn’t score 100%. There would always be a wily negative or a silly mistake. What a jerk.  

Mistakes are natural, in fact. NASA can’t afford to make the mistakes we make, but they don’t leave any job to just one person when rockets and space are involved.

Mystical Forest by Ernst Vikne licenced under CC by A SA

The bigger picture was lost to her parents, the trees for the wood so to speak. Too bad they were only concerned with some twigs. In the end we agreed that she would go for the golden 8 out of 8 in the next test.  More test tips and tricks would be added to her skill set in my class. If her parents aren’t happy, then it’s time to pass them onto me. I can’t wait. I have our lovely MS counselor on the team too. This student will know that we are behind her and think that she is terrific. Teaching is so much more than getting through that curriculum. It’s moments like these that make me want to try even harder to ensure that every kid who walks through the doors of my classroom feels successful and that it’s not always about getting that 8 out 8 or the magic 7 in MYP. Sometimes little steps up are big enough. For this kid, she needs to believe in herself.

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4 thoughts on “Trees for the wood…

  1. These kinds of stories always sadden me — and I’ve experienced them myself as a teacher, much the way you have. I’m not sure what the right approach is — I suspect there isn’t one that’s 100% “right” but I suspect what you’ve done is a close as we’re going to get. Until we can convince parents that having high expectations for their kids does NOT equal high grades… well… *sigh.* I guess this also highlights one of the things about MYP that I don’t love so much — the assessment method/process, while progressive, still comes down to numbers. If we were assessing using symbols or narratives, I wonder if parents would still have the same concerns as the parents you wrote about here. I’d like to see the MYP move more towards documenting the *learning* rather than the numbers.

    Thanks for posting. I really like your honesty here, and how you’ve woven it with your own personal stories.

  2. She went home and discussed it with her parents and they agreed, in the end, that she had done a very good job, but next time NO SILLY MISTAKES. A small victory for her, for now.

  3. Great post. It reminds us that no matter hard we try to create student centered, constructivist inquiry based, IB, not evaluatory, rubric based, or whatever you want to call them environments, we are still dealing, largely with a parent population that wants their kid to be perfect and go to Harvard so they can be successful, which often means big $$$$ and blah blah blah. We all know that narrative.

    Kids are under so much pressure to do their “work” and achieve, that the joy and pleasure of exploration and learning is run out of school.

    That is why I think if a school is truly willing to move to the next step, parents need to be more involved with their child’s learning and school policy. So often they make contact during conference or reporting time, but they need to be more connected with their child’s daily learning.

    Lot’s to think about. Great post. Look at you, ready for the big leagues.

  4. Pingback: Race to Nowhere or “Thematic material involving stress on adolescents” | Blogush

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