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Who Needs Grades?

“What would you do in school if there were no grades?”

Mrs. Neighorn asked me this question in 8th grade. I have a very clear image in my mind of this conversation. At first, I was taken aback that a teacher would ask a 14 year old this, but then I paused and considered her question seriously. How would I act in school if there were no grades attached to anything? 

I have been thinking about this question a lot lately. Perhaps because it’s April 75th and everyone’s motivation to continue to give their best effort is severely lacking. I can see my students go through the motions. They care about their grade in my class, but not much in learning. They Google instead of think, they copy but don’t retain, they ask how to solve one problem instead of asking questions about the concept. Watching this happen over and over I finally hit my breaking point. 

We need a math break. 

So we are taking one. And I am going to ask my students’ this very question. 

How I feel about grades

My answer to this question is the same as it was in 8th grade: to learn. Cliche for a teacher I know, but I realized at 14 that I loved learning and improving, which has stayed with me as a student and now as a teacher. I realized that I am privileged to have grown up in an environment that valued learning. It is not something I take for granted and I hope I pass the love of learning on to my girls. I realize that my students may not come from an environment that values learning. The education system is designed to value outcomes and results above all else. It is no wonder why my students care more about passing my class than they do about understanding math. What is missing is The Field of Dreams - “If you build it, he will come.” If you focus on learning the material, the grades will come. That is what drove me as a high school and college student. That is what drives me as a teacher. If I focus my energy on learning and improving, I will get the results I want.

Want this FREE activity? Click below! The best part is that students will have the opportunity to teach you something. Enjoy!


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