School is about a person’s ability to complete and turn in work. Our grading systems should be about improving and applying skill sets which is what assignments used to be a little more geared toward.

It’s hard to know whether a student has learned knowledge and learned how to apply it appropriately when they take pictures of someone else’s test or have someone else write their paper or the ten thousand other ways they act out “it’s not cheating if I don’t get caught.”

So often, I want to throw my hands up and scream, “are you learning anything?”

I’m afraid that the answer too often revolves around pride in “I haven’t read/finished/opened a book for this class” or the excuse “writing is just too hard.”

Do they really think ignorance is this awesome badge? Quite a few of them have apathy tattooed on every fiber of their soul when it comes to school (especially the required classes). A solid few love to see how far they can push, how much they can get away with—they speak a different language even though we use essentially the same words. And there are some who learn, who enjoy school, who enjoy my teaching style which keeps me going some days.

Just to be clear, I’m not the teacher to end all teachers. I’d like to think I’ve done more good than harm in twenty years, but I cringingly remember all the rookie mistakes. I gratefully remember each student who taught me not to judge and to watch how I say things and gave me faith that every student can grow up to be a decent person who learns from their mistakes and takes care of their responsibilities. When I look into the mirror these days I know that I can be painfully annoying for some kids, that my life lessons or active reading modeling comes across as so much babbling. I know I need to get things graded and back sooner.

On a personal level I need to stop trying to be funny, to get out more, to hoard my money against the next difficulty.

I didn’t learn the value of outlines until college. I hated dissecting poetry until college. I rarely put myself “out there” before college. Most of my kids won’t go straight to a four-year university. Some are already working full time; some have figured out the trade they want to pursue; some are uncertain and feel like they have to take random college classes until they figure it out which leads to massive debt. And some kids are graduating high school with a two-year transfer degree or they have picked schools for specific programs that have reliable job opportunities.

The world is ever-changing and some complaints are never going to change—school isn’t going to be great for everyone; we don’t always know what we learned until time has passed; kids these days are no worse than kids thirty years ago, they just live in a different time. I don’t know what challenges really eat at each kid or what they face outside of my classroom. I try to remember those things.


My goals for my students haven’t really changed: think critically, communicate effectively, learn from success and failure, be true to yourself.


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