So, there are some basic struggles that teachers with high standards are battling these days, and I find myself deep in some WWI style trench with a helmet on, trying hard to hold on to my principles. After a week like the one I’ve had, the tiny coward in me is asking if its worth it. I’ll clarify now and say: Yes. I know that it is.
Today, in a “high stakes” world where parents want the “high standards” diploma for their kids and the grades that show their kids meet the high standards… I’m finding that this does not necessarily mean that these same parents and students actually want to meet those standards. They just want the paper that says they did.
My thinking is that it doesn’t work that way… except that for many of them, it does, and it has for many years. These are students and families encountering instructional integrity (across the board) for the first time. I’m not saying they’ve never had good teachers. I KNOW they have. I’m not saying they’ve not learned anything; on the contrary, they are some of the more prepared students I’ve ever taught. What I am saying is this: They are finding that grades are reflecting their effort and learning truly, for the first time in their educational careers.
In the past, there was this idea that kids who did their work got an “A”. Kids who did most of it passed. Kids who did nothing failed. Believe it or not, that is not how it works–at least that is not how it should work.
So, I’m battling parents of “A” students who are used to this philosophy, wondering why their student did the work and got a B. Well, they did not demonstrate a complete mastery of the skills. Or, parents who want to know why a kid who passes every test still did not get a “B”–Well, said child or children, did not turn in any daily work. Or a complete journal. Or participate in speaking activities.
A grade is a dynamic, holistic thing.
The struggle isn’t just this. It is that the pressure for these high standards is driving my perfectly capable, perfectly intelligent, and amazingly equipped students to cheat, plagiarize and translate assignments in an effort to achieve the “grade” the “high stakes” world demands of them.
These are kids who’ve never been allowed to fail. Heck, they’ve never had the chance to suffer a “B” or a “C”… and now, I have a girl in my room after school saying to me, “I, um, I’ve just never not passed a test. I’m not sure what to do.” When asked if she studied, she said she didn’t think she had to. When asked if she studies for my class at all, she lists about a half dozen other things she does, “so she can get into college”.
Plagiarism has become such a problem that I’m literally considering not assigning homework at all anymore because I’m so tired of it. Every single homework assignment I assign gets passed around and copied and it makes it nearly impossible for me to a.) grade anything without wanting to throw a kitten and b.) give kids the language practice they need.
What is a teacher to do? Stop assigning out of class work–which compromises instructional integrity by not providing needed language practice… or Continue on the path, making cheating harder, but knowing that I can’t stop it…. and still assign about 5,000 zeros weekly.
Will it stop? Will I deter it? I honestly think not. I thought 11 weeks of this battle would prove that I was serious, but it hasn’t. In fact, it has picked up.
So, I ask myself, am I teaching the material? Yes. When I ask the students themselves, they tell me I did, but that they “ran out of time” to do that work, or that they didn’t understand, but their 16 sports and 2 jobs prevented them from coming to one of my 13 available tutoring slots per week.
What am I to do?