7 Reasons Why It’s Okay that I’m Not Evaluating My Students Anymore

At the spring semester of 2013, I stopped evaluating my students’ work. Their final grades now reflect the growth students have achieved toward goals they set for themselves rather than mastery toward the standards that guide my curriculum. 

I know this is better for students. I see it every day in their engagement, in the risks they take, in the choices they make so the work is meaningful and authentic. I see it in their lowered levels of stress, in their openness to trying something new, and in their willingness to challenge themselves with things they may have avoided in the past when there might be a grade penalty if things didn’t go very well. 

Back in 2013, I chose growth over mastery as the focus of grades in my classroom because my students asked me to. It was unchartered territory for all of us. And off we went. But I worried because everything I had learned about grading told me that I must make sure my grades reflect student achievement and nothing else. Not effort. Not completion. Not attendance. Just clear, objective, achievement toward well-defined standards. 

That’s not what my students wanted.

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Summer 2021 Goals Report

As I write this, I have to report back to work for school year 21-22 in 19 days.

I have fewer than three weeks of summer left. That feels like hardly anything.

I turn to my summer goals page in my writer’s notebook and am dismayed.

Of the nine teaching-related books I wanted to read this summer, I’ve read almost two. 

Of the nine specific writing-related goals I crafted for myself, I’ve met only three.

Of my ongoing goal to get to bed each night at a decent time (before 11:30), I’ve only accomplished that about a quarter of the nights this summer. 

Of the curriculum planning I wanted to do to feel like I won’t be buried in work in that (meeting-filled) week I’ll have between reporting to work and welcoming students into my classroom, I’ve done nothing. 


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Why I’m Not Answering My Students’ Questions about Faulkner

This post was also published on The Paper Graders.

My AP Lit students and I are wrapping up our adventure together with William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. (You can read more about how this text fits into the year’s curriculum here if you’re interested.)

This is the most challenging text they’ve read so far this year. Beloved is still coming in April… so I’m hoping they will be able to approach Morrison’s novel with a bit of confidence after surviving Faulkner.

If this is my goal, why then did I tell them on our first day with this tough text that I was not going to answer their questions about it? Why wouldn’t I guide them through it to make sure they understood all of it?

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Attempting to #DisruptTexts in AP Lit

This post was also published at The Paper Graders.

As I’ve articulated already in this blog, our most important conversation about education right now focuses on equity.

I’ve embarked on a bit of a listening tour recently for this topic. I’ve submitted no conference presentation proposals this year, but I’m going to those conferences to focus on listening instead. I’m listening to conversations among educators in Twitter (and retweeting to amplify other voices, too). I’m also reading what I can to learn more–books about teaching, about race in America, books written from marginalized voices.

In my listening tour, I’m grateful for the educators who have launched #DisruptTexts (Tricia Ebarvia, Lorena Germán, Dr. Kimberly N. Parker, and Julia E. Torres–read about them here). I was lucky to get to hear them present at NCTE in Houston, and I’ve definitely lurked at some of their chats on Twitter. They are driving important conversation that has definitely inspired me to think carefully about the texts I put in front of my students.

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Weekends without school work? Is it actually possible?

This post was also published on The Paper Graders.

Yes! It IS possible to have weekends without school work.

We’re several weeks into second semester, and somehow I’ve succeeded in not having to do any school work on the weekends.

(Except for reading the books I teach. That I have still been doing on the weekends as needed. But I really don’t consider that work so much…)

This is revolutionary for me. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t have the shadow of papers to read invading every single school-year weekend.

Yes, my students are still writing and I’m still reading their writing and responding. No, things aren’t piling up. I’m keeping up with the work.

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