Grading and Learning – Small truths from a skateboarder

Grading and Learning – Small truths from a skateboarder

In our high test, no child left behind system grading is taking on more and more importance.  I am sitting here on a rainy summer day wondering what that will look like for my students.  What value can grades give to their learning experience?  Will it help parents to understand and support their students in their progress to getting a good education, to learning and being successful in school and later in life?   Isn’t that what all this education is about  – being successful later in life, getting a job you enjoy, are good at and supports you in a lifestyle that you want to live.

I had Mark Rivard, a young artist/skateboarder, work with my students last spring and he connected me with a short TEDx talk about learning through the eyes of Dr. Tae, a skateboarder, digital artist, scientist, and teacher.   This 15-minute video was fascinating to watch.  Dr. Tae’s presentation was not polished and for a few minutes I wanted to turn it off.  My first thought was how is this connected to me, to teaching but like most things if I hang in there I find small truths to remember.   Dr. Tae was no exception.

The small truths and questions from Dr. Tae –

In skateboarding you know:

  • Failure is normal
  • Nobody knows how long it takes to learn anything
  • Work until you figure it out
  • Learning is not fun – there is hard work to be had  (There is a just right challenge that is needed –skateboarders call it flow )
  • When learning is the goal there is no cheating
  • What do teachers add to the process

TEDxEastsidePrep – Dr. Tae – Can Skateboarding Save Our Schools?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHfo17ikSpY&feature=plcp

 As I think about his small truths or actually Big Ideas I wonder are we going in the right direction with grades?  Is there a culture shift that needs to happen in our schools and classrooms?  Have we forgotten about learning- the how and why we learn – in the race to be sure students pass the test?   Are we helping them to be life long learners, to enter the world ready and knowing how to continue to learn and grow? Do we help our students know what Dr. Tae knows about learning?  (I know the last question is hard but an important one for us to ask ourselves – what are we adding to the process?  We do add but what specifically do we each add?   This is a discussion for another post.)

With those “small” truths in my head I continue to think about how I can best help my students and parents “see” their progress and understand what they are learning each day, week, quarter of the school year.  I need to think about how to do both – set a culture of true learning in the classroom that models real life learning and how do I share that progress with those who need to know.

This circles me back to looking at student work, sharing and exploring student portfolios so students can see change in their work and knowledge but leaves me without a quick way to inform those around us about what students have achieved.

What are your thoughts on learning and grading?  Do you have good ways to show your students and parents their progress in reading and writing?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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3 Responses to Grading and Learning – Small truths from a skateboarder

  1. I love this line…Learning is not fun – there is hard work to be had (There is a just right challenge that is needed –skateboarders call it flow ) I love this idea of flow!! I’m really wanting to work the portfolio thing again, even with my small little literacy groups – and add a digital element of celebration. xo nanc

  2. showgem says:

    You gave us a lot of “small truths” to think about. As the new year glimmers in the near future I have many of the same questions to ponder.

  3. I, too, am thinking about the essential role of what we call failure plays in the learning process. What a blessing it is to have summer to think deeply about such things. It was helpful to me to examine my personal beliefs about my own failures and the fears they harbor. It has given me ah-ha understandings that can’t help but impact my teaching.

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