Her post reminded me of a file that had sat abandoned on my computer. The name of the file is "The Bumps in the Road" and the date it was last opened was February 23 of this year. Here is what was in the file:
The Bumps in the Road
My journey of going grade less is now more than a year old. Wait that’s not entirely accurate. It isn’t just my journey. I have some companions that are on this journey with me. At our department meeting to end the first semester we took a moment to reflect on the journey and in many cases to nurse some wounds. It hasn’t been easy. It has been hard. But my belief in the value and integrity of removing the focus from grades and marks to reflecting on the mastery of learning goals remains steadfast.
I am on the downward half, home stretch, nearing the finish line – pick your crummy metaphor - of my teacher career. There are less school years ahead of me than behind me and I was thinking that if the manner in which we teach/assess/evaluate math didn’t look too different from the time I entered teaching to the time I left teaching than I would be completely disheartened.
I want to take this moment to finish what I started. That start of a post was in response to what seemed like a wave of criticism and complaint against the changes we had implemented in our department. It seemed like everyday at the start of semester two brought another crisis (cue the Supertramp...Crisis? What Crisis?). We had introduced gradeless in Grade 9 but had also made an effort to spiral our content and I can't remember how many years since we abandoned textbooks. Why would we take on the work of using feedback and learning goals to drive student learning? And it was a lot of work! Why would we redesign our courses with a focus on exploring content with more detail as we progressed through the course with special attention to making connections and using rich tasks in our instruction? Every change we have made in our department was made in what we felt was the best interests of the students.
But I know that the start of that post was in response to what seemed like a siege on all of the work we had done. I was definitely feeling a moment of doubt. I am grateful that I have an administration and department that has remained united in our mission to make these changes and has ridden out those bumps in the road. Right now, thinking about the year ahead, I know that there will be challenges again. But I am committed to what we started. I am not committed to it out of a stubborn desire to make sure that its my way or the highway (please don't cue Sinatra's...My Way. Besides I like the Sex Pistols version better).
I am completely willing to change if someone shows me that students would be better off with textbooks, with teaching that presents content in disconnected chunks, with a system that places more value on the answer than the process. But we all know that EDUCATION is so much more than just textbooks, unit tests, recommended calculators and memorization of facts. We are dedicated to the process of giving our students time to explore with rich tasks that challenge their thinking and allow them to truly experience what we love about math - the discovery of something we didn't know before because we DISCOVERED it rather than were TOLD it. And we are dedicated to the fact that we don't have to place a number/letter on that process of learning in order to give it value. The process of LEARNING is abundantly valuable and doesn't need that percentage to give it any more credibility.
So...I do have a few years left. And it would be easier to just keep doing it the way I have always done it. Dust off the unit tests, worksheets and markbook. Definitely would be a smoother ride. But what's a few bumps in the road when the journey is so much more enjoyable in the end.