The Subbing Stint Teaching Algebra came to a rather dramatic end the previous Friday. In fact, it was a Great Week all round here at The Nature Religion Connection. Mi casa is su casa.
The last post “On the Schools” was well received. The chilly wet weather broke, and we had some spectacular days working in The Garden, sitting on the deck and admiring “It All.” “It All”, such as—the school year; the Garden; and New Life-New Hope possible everywhere. Wonderful developments occurred; beautiful things are real possibilities in this world of ours!
(German Breaded Iris on the ends, Columbine in the middle: All have come and gone already this season leaving behind fond memories of their beauty. Photos by GWW from the BackYard Sanctuary.)
Closing out this very difficult year in education occurred on Friday 6/4 . It was bitter sweet. How many years have I watched another group of children move on? I have seen it, as a teacher, some 35 times, and my wife—amazing to think—almost 50 times; but she started as a teen-ager working full time in Montessori classrooms. A friend of mine retired at the High School. Our assignments just happened to work that on her last day in teaching, that Friday, she was the Intervention Specialist (co-teacher) in my algebra class. I watched her go through her belongings all day long, and then helped her carry her boxes to her car in the end. She is a good lady and was a good teacher for 30 years.
This year in my school district, we have gone from a hybrid mode, which persisted almost the entire year; to finally, late in the year –April–back to “all in”, “regular schooling” but in masks and as socially distanced as possible. We had taped lines running down the hall ways to direct traffic as if driving on the highway.
I thought my district did a pretty good job of it. “Hybrid” consisted of about 2/3rds of students split into two groups, a Monday-Tuesday group and a Thursday-Friday group; and a third group, also about 1/3 of the school population, choosing to be all online. There were a few additional differences to really “normal schooling,” besides.
First, there was and is an increase in absences, especially in the hybrid mode. Going to school 2 days a week and then sleeping in for 5 days, just did not seem to work for a lot of families and kids. No easy rhythm to be established there. And many kids, and even teachers, were quarantining, especially at first. Even these last three weeks of school have been plagued with above average absences. Kids, maybe whole families, just crapped out early on this year of educational uncertainty. It was exhausting.
But then came the vaccines and the decision was made to return to school full time. Rates of infection were declining, shots were being distributed and teachers were one of the early groups to be eligible. Also, let’s not forget the many Ohioans had already had the disease and had recovered and thus were naturally immune to further infection. Many of the most vulnerable Ohioans had even died, as in the nursing homes. The disease just has fewer places to go; all the low lying fruit — sadly to say — has already been picked.
I just read that as many Ohioans died from Covid as died in WW2, roughly!
I am glad the district leadership made the decision to re-open fully, though I was not sure of it at the time. I just wondered if it was asking too much, one more big change. But at least it is over with, schools are open, and everyone has gotten their feet wet again. That hurdle already has been surpassed, and next year has been set up to be a just plain, Normal Start.
So, how did the year end, specifically?
Largely along themes suggested in the preceding post. My High School is academically challenged. “Good kids, but not great students,” said one of its long-time teachers. And when the Final Exams were graded, by me, that was plain. Not a great Bell Curve. Too many kids at the low end, and the middle without much breadth, or the high end, not nearly enough scores in those ranges as one should expect.
But the Term Grades were not as bad. Many more students passed the term and the class than passed the Final Exam. And that was just the problem, or maybe even part of the solution, I do not know. What students knew and learned was probably best exemplified by the final exam, but can we, should we, really “fail” that many students?
An anecdote may best illustrate the point.
The ‘older’ (but not as old as I) and insightful science teacher across the hall, Elaine, approached me Thursday and wanted to show me a text she had received from a parent. It was not a pleasant text and she had received it the night before. Elaine said at first she was upset but now was calmer. She wanted my opinion.
The mother was harsh with Elaine. She called Elaine “a crazy woman” and said that if she had “nothing good to say about a student; she should not search to find something bad.” It was a fairly long text.
What had the teacher commented on the report card, that set this parent off? She had said only that her daughter, Brittani, “Did not work to her full potential.” and that “Daily effort could lead to excellence.” The mother’s comment was that Brittani (in names today, a “y” turns into “i” and an “i” to “y”) was “an all A and B student,” and that should surely be good enough and warrant only praise.
I sympathized with Elaine, because Brittani is a big goof-off, and does not try and will announce that she “doesn’t care” right there in the middle of class, often. And curiously, Elaine is one of Brittani’s supporters, telling me early on that Brittani is “smart” but she just doesn’t try enough.
It suddenly occurred to me that what we had here was some disjointed perspectives. I asked Elaine, at last, “What grade did you give her?” And, surprising to me, Elaine had given her a “B” in spite of Brittani’s lack of effort. I said, “Well there we have it.” This mother really did see a good report card and could not understand its circumstances. Elaine quickly added, “I know my standards should be higher, but then so many of my students would get F’s!” Elaine does work with some of the most difficult groups—many of the most vulnerable incoming freshmen. Elaine is trying to get them in a positive frame of mind about school, and bring them along through ‘baby steps.’
The mother did not understand, but it is surprising to me that she did not have a more accurate sense of who her daughter was, at school. I doubt that Brittani is ‘an all A and B daughter’ at home. And then it occurred to me, “What grade am I about to give her?” I knew I had just graded her Exam and she got about 45% correct! I went back to my room to check the electronic grade book. Most of Brittani’s grade was already determined long before my subbing began, and The Final Exam plays no part in any grade at all, strangely.
I looked up her term grade, a “B”! I was disappointed. I looked further at this teacher’s grading system, and, as I had already been catching on, her standards were not very high either. In her system, a quiz and a test barely count for anything more than an individual daily assignment! In her system, just handing in a daily assignment — that was hardly scrutinized by the teacher — was the biggest part of attaining a “C” or “B.”
I did not want to perpetuate this impropriety. I submitted the “B” term grade and recorded the “F” exam grade, and Commented: “Term grade is good, but could be better. Lacks daily effort.” Brittani is fairly intelligent: Smart enough to game the system. At best, she probably deserves a “D”–considering her effort and what she actually learned– but then many other kids without as much ability, but who try, would get an “F”. Back in the day, I always took the risk and graded more subjectively. I hope that I would have given her a less favorable term grade, and then commented about lack of effort. It’s a dilemma; or is it like Karl tried to advocate: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”
On a Very Different Note!
The Garden is blooming and An Olive has ripened! Yes, my wife and I have become Grandparents for the second time! Our son and his wife have just given birth to a beautiful baby girl. And, yes, they have named her Olive! An eight pound six ouncer, with the most beautiful round features — eyes, head, smile — all very nicely shaped, just like you would expect from well formed little fruit.