My Math Class Weblog

March 9, 2009

Two different perspectives

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 2:01 am

The first four years of teaching I earned a reputation for being a difficult teacher. Not because the students couldn’t understand me. Not because I didn’t give them chance after chance to improve their grade. Not because I wouldn’t bend over backwards to work with them one on one when they didn’t understand a concept. And definitely not because I was making the assignments to difficult or lengthy. But the reason why I was/am a difficult teacher is that their grade in my class is not based on effort but on mastery of the skill concepts.

Time and time I have heard from students and their parents the age old question of “Why did I fail them?”.  I explained that the grade they received was based on how well they learned the material we covered in class. The usual response was “But I tried, its just too difficult, …. at least I should get a (fill in the blank with any grade higher than D)”.

What is frustrating is the idea that a student’s “effort” in the class (totally subjective on the student’s part),  should be a major component of the student’s grade.  My response is always “If I go to a mechanic and they charge me $600 to fix my car, I don’t want to hear that they tried to fix it, I want to know that they did for the money I paid them.”

So I am reading this article and I am basically nodding my head in agreement throughout. My favorite statement is the last sentence which says  “ that being successful means worrying less about what you expect, and simply doing what is expected of you.”   Unfortunately, that is not the mindset of the youth today. They have it all figured out and anybody who comes along and requires them to do more than what they figured to do, all of a sudden that teacher is “too hard” and thus thereby absolves them from anything wrong (cheating, copying, stealing) to achieve a passing grade.

How do I counteract this effect?  Have the student calculate their own grade. I use to give the students a weekly progress report with their grades already calculated for them. This time I won’t give them the final grade, but they will have to calculate it on their own.  If they see why they receive the grade, then they will stop thinking that I am giving them a grade and start seeing how their grade is calculated and more importantly how their “effort” to turn in subpar work hurts their grade, not helps them.

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