Midterm is upon us and I reminded my students of how things are different at this time in an ungraded classroom. I hear them talking about what grades they are getting in their other classes because at midterm teachers prepare progress reports for families to see how their child is doing halfway through the trimester. In my class it’s different and I remind them that the P (for Pass) they’ll see on their report card tells very little. Actually, it doesn’t tell anything about how they’re doing in my class or how they are learning. I point them to their blogs because that’s where I look to see who’s keeping up, who’s falling behind, and who’s not getting what we’re learning. I also refer to the class social network to see what they think regarding the prompts that I put up for them.
I also tell them that it’s survey time again. Surveys are my way of collecting data from my students and finding out how things are going and how they’re doing. So today I started with a short exit slip survey with four questions. The survey was completely anonymous, the only info I got was a times tamp from the Google Form. So maybe because of that or because they were engaged in other tasks only about half of the kids in each class responded to the survey (54 kids responding total because I forgot to mention it to my first class until the end of the period – my bad!). Still I saw a good representation of kids taking the survey so I feel that the responses are pretty indicative of this group.
The last two questions were focused on what they’ve been learning and if they’re keeping up. The first two were more general and provided me some very interesting information. The first question asked students, “What do you think are Mr. G’s goals for your Science education this year?” And the second question asked students, “What do you want to get out of your education?”
I put their responses into Tagul to create the following word clouds (the clouds have a lot of space after them – somehow happens to the embed code – so keep scrolling down past them to continue reading):
“What do you think are Mr. G’s goals for your Science education this year?” (Click here if you can’t see the Tagul Cloud.)
“What do you want to get out of your education?” (Click here if you can’t see this Tagul Cloud.)
After seeing those two clouds I was brought to the verge of tears. Tears of joy. I was so touched that they get me and they get what I want for them. And I’m not the crying type! So I didn’t cry but man it felt good. It just shows that all the gentle prodding, the not-so-gentle-prodding, the reminders, redirections, the help, the sometimes frustration, the good and the bad of day to day working with these youngsters is all worth it! The first question, asking them what they thought my goals for them were, was a bit of a risk. I mean, what if they say that my goals are to conform them to a stereotype, or to get them to pass a state test, or to make their lives miserable, or something like that. I would have felt horrible. So to see LEARN and THINK as the two most frequently used words touched my heart. I harp on that a lot because, as I tell them, I don’t want them to think I went gradeless to allow them to blow off Science. On the contrary! I did it to free them up to LEARN Science! Science was a big word too, so yay! Grade and Pass were pretty big words as well but they were mostly used in the context of learning so it wasn’t that kids are focusing on passing and getting, “a good grade,” in my classes. Here are some of the many great responses I got for what they think my goals for them are (some are 6th graders some are 8th graders):
“That without the grades, it will make the kids learn better because they wont be stressing on trying to get A’s.”
“I think Mr. G wants us to have fun but learn at the same time. He cut out our grades so we can focus on learning and fun with our learning instead of just worrying about grades.”
“i think his goals are for us to learn he believes that if kids want the A there not going to take risk. i think his goal is good.”
“To learn from your mistakes. And know that if you fail, you can always try something different. And to make sure that his student are actually learning instead of just worrying about their grades.”
“To teach every student great knowledge and for them to use that knowledge for something useful later in their life”
“I think Mr.G’s goal is to have a science class full of technology that is working and learning well and productively.”
“Really good i like that we can use all that we use in here.”
“To learn stuff about science and so we canÂ better our future and open up more choices and no grades is so we can finish our work over the year and not feel pressured and do it quick.”
“I think Mr.G wants the class to get used to using electronics and the tools for them so we are comfortable using them in the future and to teach us how energy and motion work.”
“In my opinion i think mr.G’s goal for us students is to have fun exploring life science, and to get us ready for ninth grade. ”
“To understand that failure isn’t something to be feared or avoided, but embraced as a learning experience. You want us to understand the things that you try to teach us, or at least have a basic understanding of biology and other life sciences, so that we aren’t completely screwedÂ over. ”
“to try our hardest, even if we fail we still learn from are mistakes so I’m guessing or guesstimating you don’t want us to fail yet you do at the same time so first you want us to fail but succeed the second time with the new knowledge from our past failure.”
“I think his goals are to help up understand that you’re going to fail I’m life. But it’s okay. And also to help people with technology. I enjoy having him as my science teacher, because the fact that he doesn’t have a grading system, makes it easier on me. I’m not constantly having to worry if I’m failing things, and as long as I do well on our assignments, then I’m fine. ”
“Well to be honest, I really don’t know how to explain it.Â Obviously, we’re studying cells at the moment, so I’m pretty positive that you would hope we could give at least a half-right explanation on how a cell functions. I kinda feel like you want us to learn to fail, does that make sense?Â I think you want us to learn to fail because in life we can’t always succeed and the sooner we learn that I feel the better.Â If we learn to fail, we learn to succeed and we realize our drive to succeed. The most important things you’ll teach us won’t be science.”
Here are some of the responses for what they want to get out of their education (again some 6th and some 8th):
“I want to be able to learn to where it sticks in my head. I lie the way Mr.G does it, because we aren’t rushing through our work, and not getting much out of it. With Mr. g we can take our time to really learn. I like the games where you can learn cause its something that i think is fun and I also learn from it.”
“I wanna go to college and get a good job that i like.”
“a good job and college things that can support me besides my parents.”
“2 make a difference in the world.”
“I want to get better at science and learn more. I thought science was gonna be WAY harder. Turns out its really simple as long as you listen and understand the questions.”
“”My goals aren’t for middle school, because I have had very few classes where I’ve learned much of anything. I want to write, and that is what i want out of my education. Naturally, graduating highschool has a positive stigma, and i want to graduate early. What i want to do is do PE as a summer coarse, effectively allowing me to not actually do anything, while getting credits. That, or taking electives at the same time as PE, so i ‘do’ pe work afterschool and check in weekly, letting me take more electives, making me more impressive to colleges and letting me skip a class that benefits me in no way at all.
I want to get quite a bit out of my education, and I have it all planned our=t, although most of my plan isn’t supported by Chimacum, because that’s just not how the PE program works, and I don’t like that.”
“Get good enough grades to be eligible to attend Julliard, or Boston School Of Performing arts, and do well in my acting career. Everything I do in school with affect my future. I try to always do my best. ”
“My goals for education are complicated. I wish school would teach me how to succeed in life.Â Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I have anything against cell osmosis but I don’t believe that cell osmosis is going to help me pay taxes or get enough money to fill a car up with gas. I also wish that school would prepare me for the field of work I wish to take up.Â Most of the classes that are mandatory for me to take won’t help me as a musician (again, no offense to the cells, me and them are bros) and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. It’s not that I think what I’m learning isn’t important, it’s just that I feel like I wont use it in my field of work. . . That makes it seem like I think it’s unimportant, doesn’t it? What if all school was like college?Â Excluding primary and elementary school that is.Â If all school was like college most young adults would be far more prepared for life outside of school. Referring back to “Leave options for yourself” (those words came out of your mouth Mr. G) I believe that “leaving options” is kind of like setting yourself up for failure.Â Leaving other options is like already admitting that you can not achieve your goal and I don’t do that.Â I only want to be one thing in my life and that’s a musician, so I have no back up plan and it may be naive but I do not intend to construct one anytime soon.”
Pretty cool, huh? This gives me a little more insight into my students. So yeah, it’s progress report time but it’s time for me to get another glimpse into my students. And I’m glad I did because I’m appreciating them even more than I already was. Man, I think my job’s done here. I better hurry up and retire. Only problem is that I have 20 more years before I can do that. Oh well, at least I’m in really good company.