Posted in Teaching and Learning

drafting gates……

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So, right now I feel like I’m the chap in the little blue hat. Sending sheep this way or that – you passed the assessment, you can do level 2 Chem, you didn’t, so sorry, no L3 for you. A Colleague gave me the idea, we were having a chat and it was his analogy for schools in NZ. We are essentially drafting gates for society.

What a truly depressing thought

And it stretches further than that. Students who chose to leave school before gaining any formal qualification are at an enormous disadvantage. Of course there are exceptions, but for many it can mean a life of minimum wage jobs, or no job. Which means for a few lovely kids I have taught, and have chosen to leave schooling, statistically speaking they are in for a hard time. Which is again a depressing thought.

And now I am really riled up. Which is good – it is making me think about things. During #edchatNZ I was getting so cross I left and came here to get my thoughts in order.

So these are the ‘challenges’ in my head around assessments.

1) I am employed as a teacher by my school, which is run by the BOT which are parents of the students and by the ministry of education. They want x number of students to pass x number of credits, which get filtered down do me in various dept goals and meetings around raising achievement. So directive from the ‘boss’ is ‘within reason’, get kids passing. It makes everyone look good, including me.

2) Parents genuinely want the best for their kids, and they don’t always understand how NCEA works, or more importantly, how it could work. But the do see little Johnie or Jane down the road getting X credits, so they want their kid to do the same. Many of these parents are working incredibly hard to do the best they can for their children, and I feel a responsibility to them. They send them to school and into my care in good faith.

3) Employers need something to employ people with. Yes skills and on the job training count, but are you going to take the kid fresh out of school with 100 credits, or the one with 40. Would you take the one with Excellence endorsement, or none? You simply can’t interview everyone, so they need to have some sort of filter.

4) I wish I did not have to assess. But then, without being tested, how can you grow? If you don’t challenge yourself, how do you know if you can? Do you need to know? Maybe for me the name needs to change?

5) There are lots of things that ‘schools’ assess that they don’t mean to, but like any institutions it creeps in. Wear your hair the right way, be the right size, control your bladder till the bell goes (I hate this one, if you need to pee, for god sakes pee. having 18 year olds ask me to if they can pee drives me MAD), stand in lines for food, fit the norm etc. Staying in school is almost as much about conforming as anything else. Even as a teacher, there are little things that creep in. Hell, what is a professional dress code for teachers anyway? Does it matter? I’m on my feet in a sci lab – why can’t I wear gymmies and trackies?? Why can’t the kids????

6) I feel I am currently teaching that doing ok is doing enough. We are doing all these assessments, but there is no difference if you ace it, or just scrap that excellence grade. I used to strive for the 90% + grades, and cursed when I finished second by .8%. I’m not sure how I would have gone under NCEA?? And how can I encourage ALL my students to reach for better, when they see a credit hanging low on some branches and just reach for it.

So on top of this is the idea from the chat tonight – can we innovatively assess. It does not remove the need to assess. It would put it in pretty wrappers and make it shinny, but it is still an assessment. There would still be those that pass and fail. A educations darwin awards if you will.

I feel like I am clinging to the chains that bind us. Because which ever way you put it, we would still need to assess.

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