Every Sunday night, my high school principal sends a beautifully crafted email of encouragement and wisdom to the faculty. Of course there’s pertinent information as well, mostly updates and important dates to remember, but at the heart of her messages are words of inspiration—and this week’s was no different. Just three days ago, I received an email that reminded my colleagues and me of the importance of self-care. We’re one week shy of midterms (insane!!!), and finally halfway through the longest term of the school year. Faculty members have been trucking away like trains on a track, turning our wheels faster and faster, not breaking, not stopping, and not resting since we started orientation and planning week in August. We’re exhausted, sleep-deprived, dehydrated, famished, and probably a hop, skip, and a jump away from falling ill or quitting (whichever comes first, right?). We’re turning into zombies and pod-people—tiny shells of our previous existence. Okay, okay…maybe I’m being a bit dramatic here, but when we stop and take a moment to breathe and reflect deeply, we can start to see and feel what we’ve often been ignoring. And as I sit and consider my own thoughts and feelings, I can’t help but think about yours: how do the students feel?
As a teacher, I face a lot of obstacles that get in the way of productive and positive classroom experiences, one of which is grades. I often have students asking for additional opportunities to improve their grades, not their skills. Or students who bypass marginal comments and flip to the back to see their grade. And in rare cases, students who try to negotiate their grade in an effort to change it. While I would never prevent a student from doing better in class, I’m concerned that, more often than not, a student’s focus and motivation to improve is misplaced.
When did the importance of grades outweigh the importance of learning and growing?