Asset-Building Assessment: From Degrading Rubrics to Actionable Feedback Guides

When I was a junior in college, I did some part time work tutoring students in writing through my university’s literacy center. I was working with a ninth grade student, Allan, and he was concerned about how his writing ability was affecting his grade. As we we were getting to know one another, many of my questions focused on what his teacher expected from Allan and his classmates when it came to writing.

Me: So, your classmates are getting high marks, but you’re struggling. Does your teacher go over what he expects on your papers?

Allan: Well, he goes over the rubric and . . .

Me: Hang on. Rubric? What’s that?

Allan: It’s like, a thing… a paper my teacher gives us to tell us how we’re doing with our writing, what he expects, you know?

Me: . . .

That’s right, as a junior in college, this was the first time I was becoming aware of this measuring tool. Now, to be fair to my teachers up until that time, they were using clear assessment tools to evaluate my writing and give me feedback–I remember checklists full of writing features that my teachers would tick off as they each on in my papers, and at the end I would get a certain amount of points based on my performance. But this was the first time I had to pay attention because my student’s grade depended to what extent he could calibrate his writing to the rubric.

I helped Allan work his way to receiving top marks in his class according to the scoring guide his teacher gave the class. It was very satisfying to watch him succeed because of our collaboration, and one of the many formative experiences that lead me to pursuing a career in teaching ELA at the high school level. But, soon after I started teaching, assessing student writing according to rubrics nearly caused me to leave the profession.

Continue reading “Asset-Building Assessment: From Degrading Rubrics to Actionable Feedback Guides”

“Am I Putting Too Much Pressure on My Colleagues?” with Deanna Lough & Marisa Thompson

 

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Dear Teacher,

When was the last time you were genuinely excited about your own professional growth? For me, I am the type of person who listens to educational podcasts on my commute, downloads audio books for all of those times I walk the family dog, and gets overly excited about the next conference I am going to attend. I accost my colleagues with all of the ideas I have and initiatives I want to spearhead. I send book-chapter-sized emails to six people I think might be interested in the topic (spoiler: they’re not).

To put it mildly, when it comes to teaching, I’m intense (Just like Aimee Skidmore describes herself in episode 006 of the podcast). Pedagogically, I am turnt up and taking it to the next level, but my colleagues are dashing into their classrooms when they see me coming. They get into their cars just a little faster when they see me heading to the parking lot. And, I’m sure, they have even faked a phone call or two so that they could avoid just one more conversation about best instructional practices.

It makes me wonder, “Am I putting too much pressure on my colleagues?” Continue reading ““Am I Putting Too Much Pressure on My Colleagues?” with Deanna Lough & Marisa Thompson”

Overcoming Pedagogical Repetition Compulsion

Why do we so often repeat the past? For me, it comes down to comfort. The times I challenge myself to look into a new approach is usually when I hit crisis, meaning “the way I currently behave is no longer working.”

In a previous post, I chronicled the biggest crisis of my career:  I almost left the classroom. Essentially, leading up to this crisis, the way I was conducting myself appeared to be “working.” Then, seemingly instantaneously, what I thought was working didn’t work any more.

In that situation, I was confronted with reality, and I either had to change or quit. There was no going back. But there have been other moments in my career where I have stepped back and taken a closer look at what I was doing and asked myself, “Is there a better way to do this?” Continue reading “Overcoming Pedagogical Repetition Compulsion”

“Am I Present at Home?” with Aimee and Rob Skidmore & Lindsey Frieden

Dear Teacher,

If you’re like me, you struggle with knowing how much time, effort, and energy you should give to the job. My lessons are never good enough. I worry that I have not given enough to assessing my students’ progress. And I am constantly tinkering with my craft to make it just a little bit better. When I give so much of myself to the job, I don’t leave time for the other parts of my life that matter. I have missed moments loved ones. There have been plenty of occasions where I am in the same location with my family, but I am NOT present with them.

As my wife and started having children, this started to eat at me more and more. And a few years after my first child was born, I started to ask myself, “Am I Present at Home?”

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Shortly after launching Dear Teacher, Don’t Give Up! Aimee Skidmore (@skidmoreaimee) sent me an email sharing about the time that she almost walked away from teaching. She included details about how it affected life at home, so I reached out to her and Rob inviting them on the podcast to talk about how that difficult time for Aimee was also a difficult time for her loved ones at home.

Aimee has been teaching Language Arts for over 20 years, and Rob does work in international development, which caused a few moves over the years. At present (and I get the impression that they plan to stay), they are in Geneva, Switzerland. A few years ago, Aimee stepped into the role as Head of English in her middle school, and as she invested herself in this new position, things started to grow dim rather quickly. Continue reading ““Am I Present at Home?” with Aimee and Rob Skidmore & Lindsey Frieden”

Fear of Being Wrong: A Candid Conversation About Calling Out Students

It’s been a while since my last blog post. Welcoming our fourth child into our home has disrupted more than a few of our routines. But I am excited to share this post because you get the chance to listen in on a conversation about what students experience when sitting in our classrooms, waiting to see if the teacher will call on them.

At the opening of spring semester, one of my sophomores wrote an entry in her Writer’s Notebook titled, “The Fear of Being ‘Wrong’.” Shay’s brief 150+ word depiction of what goes through her mind when she shares a wrong answer in a classroom setting was captivating! Shortly after reading it, I asked her if she would let me post it here at Make Them Master It. Not only did she allow me to publish her entry, she also was willing to sit down with me and record a conversation about it. Continue reading “Fear of Being Wrong: A Candid Conversation About Calling Out Students”

“Am I Saying ‘Yes’ to Too Many Things?” With Matthew M. Johnson

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Dear Teacher,

When I was in my ninth year of teaching, out of the 180 I was contracted to spend in front of my students, I was out of the classroom for 33 of them. For thirty of those days, I was out of the classroom for one of the three district committees I was participating in. I’m ashamed to admit, that the other three were due to illness and the birth of my third child! Luckily, for our family, she was born at the very beginning of a break in the calendar. At the end of the year, I had to look at my situation and ask, “Am I saying ‘yes’ to too many things?”

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Several months ago, I started interacting with Matthew M. Johnson. Beginning a friendship around the content we publish online, we eventually learned one another’s stories about the twists and turns of our teaching careers. There were a few stand out parallels, and I asked him if he would be willing to share about the time he almost left the teaching.

As Matthew learned what opportunities to say ‘yes’ to–and which ones to pass on–not only did he become a better, more focused teacher, he was also able to make time for what mattered most: his loved ones. With the little time what little time remains on his calendar, he writes about how writing teachers can give timely feedback, deeply improving student writing, all while make it home in time for dinner each night.

Listen to our conversation and get more details about how to connect with Matthew HERE.


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“Am I Allowed to Have a Life?” with Dave Stuart Jr.

 

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Dear Teacher,

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You have a roster full of students who are at differing levels of ability. And it’s your job to get ALL of them to an acceptable level of proficiency. As the year unfolds, to do this, you realize that you need to stay at work a little later, take home a few more assignments to grade, get up just a little earlier in the morning to be in the classroom for a few more minutes to get it all done. Tired, and leaving your classroom after the sun has set for the third day in a row, in a flash of sudden anger, you say, “Am I allowed to have a life!?”

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In this episode, you will hear from teacher, content creator, and professional developer, Dave Stuart Jr. Several years ago, Dave started a blog that turned into a website, which developed into a couple of books, and eventually lead to the creation of a couple of online courses.

Believe it or not, a few years into the job, Dave actually quit teaching! For many of us, this is hard to believe. But after you hear his story, you will get a clearer picture of the why behind Dave’s writing, speaking, and professional development workshops. You will hear about how Dave figured out how to set limits on himself, two teacher archetypes to avoid, and why you should write an Everest Statement right now. And, as mentioned in the podcast, here’s the first chapter of Dave’s book, These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most.

If you want to connect with Dave, and get more details about his story, CLICK HERE.


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