Be all that you can be. Find your future--as a teacher.

Musings of a second-year teacher.

Monday, May 11, 2009

N's are bad, P's are good

Who knew that we started judging grades in Kindergarten? I sure didn't. Until now, my kids had been oblivious on report card day. Probably part of that was my fault, because I never really made a big deal of it when report cards were to be sent home. I didn't think I needed to, because it seems to me that most of my students were working up to their potential and the report card was important to let parents know about their child's progress. But today, I happened to mention report cards were going home in folders. The way my students reacted, you would have thought I had just said, "Oh, by the way, you'll find $5 in your daily folders tonight." They were so excited!

As they packed up to go home, I caught multiple students pulling out their report cards. I didn't really understand this because a) they can barely read and b) do they really even understand what all those slashes and marks mean? My heart sank a little when I heard one student say "N's are bad." I hate that my students already have that mentality. I don't feel as if "N's should be considered bad" because all my students who received N's were trying their hardest. An N doesn't mean that you are bad and didn't pay attention. It just means that, for some reason, your brain works a little slower than some other people's and it's taking longer for you to learn your letters. I don't want my students to ALREADY be categorizing themselves according to grades.

Along those same lines, I don't want my students to think that "P's are good" and "because I got P's I'm good." Everything we learn seems to click naturally with a few of my students, but I get so frustrated when they do the bare minimum and don't apply themselves at all. When I tell my students to "journal and write two sentences or more", my bright and capable students will write two sentences and that is it. I can not convince them to write more, even if they are able. It frustrates me at times that classroom achievement is boiled down to a letter. (Although, I see why this is necessary, because I already spend WAY too much time on report cards...this system does make it as simple as possible.) It just seems discouraging when I fill in a report card with all N's, but the student has made tremendous progress in the past 6 weeks- just not enough to warrent a P. And I hate putting down all P's knowing a parent will read that and think, "My child's doing just fine, I don't need to encourage them to do any more".

This is probably an age-old complaint and I understand the need for some kind of standard. I guess I was just shocked at how quickly students absorb the implications of grades. Let's hope they don't take them too seriously yet...they have plenty of time in the future to be worrying about grades!


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