Friday, December 4, 2009

Change Happens

As recently as 2007, email was a very small part of my life. I’d check in every third day or so to clear the spam and read the occasional note I’d get. But then it started to happen in my work life that people would say, “Did you get the email I sent you?” Shamefully, I didn’t and I realized I’d better start checking a bit more frequently.

Next, I started checking my email at the end of each day. By and large, I was keeping up with the updates people would send me and I was feeling pretty in the loop…until, I started missing the things people would jot off in the morning that I needed to know for that day.

From that point on, I checked my email morning and night. In fact, I now have a Blackberry so I can check it between classes and during lunch too. Never will I be out of the loop again.

The issue of assessment keeps coming up in the conversations I have been having with teachers.
They are jazzed up and excited about new ways to get students thinking and talking and responding thoughtfully in reading and writing but yet, they are afraid. They wonder, “How will I assess this? Our report card asks for letter grades or numerical percentages.”

And so, they retreat from good teaching practices because they cannot reconcile how to make their teaching match their report card.

I have begun thinking that assessment is a lot like me and email. At first, it was what it was. I didn’t have a lot of reason to change. It worked for me the way I needed it to work. And then it didn’t, so I tweaked it and it was working again. Then it wasn’t working, so I changed it a lot and now it runs like a well-oiled machine.

The same thing has to happen with assessment. It is important to remember that report cards and assessment practices are no more than ink on paper. They derive from conversations that have happened at some point in the past by some group of thoughtful professionals. When things aren’t working, it’s time to start having conversations to think about what is working and what isn’t working. Granted, the change may happen slowly, but change happens.

And most of the time, change is for the better.

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