How do you assess that?

When last I wrote, my intent was to get my head into some research on assessment, in hope of finding support and strategies for moving my project assessment practices away from rubrics and toward some kind of more self-reflective, authentic form. Then, October happened. I attended two different environmental education conferences, went through student-led conferences, and (as I write this piece) am preparing for our school’s first public Presentation Night of the school year. Simply put, I haven’t done my homework, and I need an extension. Feel free to give me an “F” or a “0” or “Non-Mastery” for that one.

But my students are doing so many awesome things! De — , a senior who’s been in my advisory since seventh grade, remarked the other day about a certain class of math problem, “I remember when these were really hard!” The next day, she explained what a variable is to a new seventh grader, Da — . How do you assess that?

A — , a freshman, showed me an outline she’d sketched for a presentation she’d like to give at the aforementioned Presentation Night. I reminded her that she didn’t see the point of outlines when she first joined us two years ago, and she chuckled. How do you assess that?

S — , another freshman, just submitted a really amazing justification letter for his first ever capstone project. It’s about animal adaptations rather than “Star Wars” or “Pokémon,” which were his sole obsessions last year. How do you assess that?

The other day, we held an unscheduled town hall (all school) meeting, where 31 students and 2 staff sat together in a big circle for ninety minutes talking through a variety of community concerns that were causing some students to feel isolated and unwelcome. A new junior, C — , summed up the progress we all should strive for: “We should just try and make ourselves better.” A sophomore, K — , put the situation even more succinctly: “It just seems pointless to bicker.” How do you assess that?

In writing this piece, it became clear to me that there’s a little voice in the back of my head, asking me again and again: How do you assess that? Do I really believe that my students’ growth only matters if it’s somehow quantified, averaged, and graphed? Of course not. But then, where does that voice come from? And why do I feel like I need to listen to it? Every time I do, it takes me out of the moment and to a less mindful space, which isn’t good for myself or my students. Perhaps I’ll find some answers in the books I’ve acquired, which I really will dig into between now and my next post in early December. (Please don’t assess that.)

GMWP: Greater Madison Writing Project

Teacher as Artist, Teacher as Researcher, Teacher as…

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