I recently watched a video interview over at The Atlantic with Ileana Jimenez, an English teacher in Manhattan, talking about why she makes her students keep blogs. She said she views writing as a public act and encourages her students to think about it in a similar way. She mentioned an incident where one of her students wrote about a prominent, professional writer and then received a comment from that writer. Suddenly, the student didn’t care about the marks anymore, realizing that her writing and her ideas could have meaning beyond the classroom.
Earlier tonight I replied to one of my favourite educational Twitters, Nicholas Provenzano aka @thenerdyteacher, because he had written a wonderful article about Sir Ken Robinson, Lex Luthor, and education. He replied back AND started following me. I got excited and suddenly felt this new pressure to produce higher quality tweets that better expressed my personal ideas and beliefs.
As a result of these two separate, yet similar, circumstances I thought: “Oh hey! How can I create this feeling of accountability and excitement for my students?” How do I create assessment and evaluation methods that encourage my students to look beyond the grade and focus on the actual knowledge they’re gaining? What sort of risks do I need to take so that my students can take risks that result in outcomes that are personally rewarding not just academically necessary?
I think this entire experience was a testament to how much I need to be able to do something to really understand it because I’ve been reading a lot lately about creating new assessment methods that allow students to become personally invested in their learning beyond the tangible letter grading system, but the whole incident with @thenerdyteacher tonight really brought it home for me. And then I think back on the only class I received an A+ in at university and it was a practicum editing class where I worked for Black Moss Press, a small Ontario publishing house. I didn’t care about my mark in the class, I cared about creating the best manuscript, book design, press package, and book launch for our author, Mary Ann Mulhern.
How do I create that feeling for a bunch of office admin students learning about grammar? I’ll get back to you on that one…