Sunday, January 25, 2009

Performance based on this?

I'm watching an English class give presentations based on their reading of some "To Build a Fire" type story - not the London tale but similar. This particular group is ninth graders, very remedial reading. These are not strong students but most gave a good attempt at a presentation. There was one, however, whose entire presentation on wilderness survival consisted of holding an aluminum energy-drink can and saying

"To start a fire, take a piece of chocolate and rub the bottom of the can to make it shiny and then shine it on the tinder and um, yeah."

That's it. That was the whole thing. Right out of SurvivorMan and not even that good.

So I'm thinking ... These are the kids whose math and English scores are going to be used tojudge us all and our effectiveness as teachers? How well I teach seems such a small part of the overall performance of our students. Their mood, the time of year, the help they get from parents or not, their attitude.

If I were grading this and gave the kid the grade it deserved, am I being too mean? Will the kid learn more from seeing the true worth of his work or should I pat him on the back and praise away my standards? At what point does the "Gotta make them learn" run up against the need for students to do their part and accept some responsibility for their laziness or screw-ups?

Am I at fault for the lazy student?

What is the goal here? Good performance on the NCLB test? Or preparation for the Real-World (tm) of bosses who are not happy with a 32-word presentation? Or some other vague notion of teaching to the best of your ability?

Is it any wonder I'm not in favor of performance bonuses for teachers?

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