When it involves “marks for adults,” can we “ignore the grade?”

Today was EdCamp Hamilton, and it was an incredible day of learning. As a true first for me, I think that I had more face-to-face interactions than online ones at the event, and I even resisted the urge to tweet during sessions. I instead reflected and shared some ideas afterwards. While I engaged in numerous amazing conversations today — both in sessions and in hallways — I’ve been thinking the most tonight about a point that came up at our first session about C.P.S., self-regulation, and how this works in a school environment. 

This session topic directly relates to my professional inquiry, which actually ended up evolving after writing this earlier blog post, thinking more about the issues, and some new learning from Part 3 of the Self-Regulation Foundations Course. I’m not going to share my professional inquiry topic here, as I’m still playing with the specific wording. I thought about this topic though when we discussed how different the C.P.S. model is to the more traditional forms of discipline. Making these changes in a classroom and a school require taking risks. It’s hard. Sometimes our approaches don’t work. Sometimes we need to make a lot of changes. Sometimes we come to the realization that it might be what we’re doing and how we’re doing it (whether intentionally or unintentionally) that escalate the problem, and then we have to look critically at ourselves. This is really hard.

I know that I make mistakes … in fact, I know that I make lots of them. I reflect after making these mistakes. I try hard to learn from these mistakes, ultimately changing both my words and my actions. I would like to think/hope that people don’t judge me based on these mistakes, and that I’m not seen as less of a person (or an educator) because I make them. As I’ve said to our students before, “Nobody’s perfect.” I think this includes adults.

That said though, I had a great conversation today after this first EdCamp session with Maria Marino, a Grade 1/2 teacher at a neighbouring school. I talked to her a little bit about my professional inquiry topic, and I wondered out loud something that I’ve just been thinking in my head (up until this point): would I be brave enough to choose the same topic if this was my Teacher Performance Appraisal year? I still remember the stress from a few years ago when I was trying hard not to throw up in preparation for my upcoming evaluation. While my principal then and my principal now, have come into the classroom often, have seen my interactions with students, have observed me teaching, and know how I plan and reflect, there’s still something different when it’s a formal evaluation year. I wonder …

  • What does my professional inquiry question say about me?
  • How do I want others to perceive me? Would a different question make them see me in a more favourable light?
  • Would my professional inquiry question change the quality of my evaluation? How do I feel about this?

While on one hand, I understand that when we tackle these problems of practice, we improve, and this ultimately benefits kids. On the other hand, I think back to my school days and my anxiety over marks: am I willing to take a big risk when this might impact on my own “mark?” Although I’d like to think that the learning makes the risk worth it, I wonder if I could follow through in the end. Would you? 

Today’s conversation and my thinking since then makes me wonder if these professional inquiries are almost a way of creating a culture of continual self-reflection and professional growth. I love the sound of this. But I wonder if tackling these tough questions means moving past an “evaluation stance” to a “learning stance?” How do you do this (consistently) when an evaluation still exists? This is kind of like a case of “marks for adults,” and I don’t know how to “ignore the grade.”


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