When I was in the classroom, there was nothing like it. It’s the moment you can physically see a student ‘get it’. The light bulb goes on, the eyes shine brightly, and the child sits up straighter. A look of pride sweeps over their face. I love this.
It is one of the things I miss most about being in the classroom. I didn’t really take the time this fall to realize how much those moments meant or how much I missed them. I guess I didn’t have a lot of time as I was learning my new role and district. I didn’t realize it until I got to experience it again. This experience was a little different, though. I got to see it from a teacher.
At my school we are doing the monumental work of shifting to standards based grading. We are analyzing practice, creating new reporting procedures, and re-evaluating assessment. I have been able to talk to all different content area teachers, listen to their concerns, and celebrate their learning and growth. I have gotten to see the lightbulb go on a few times and witness the moment they ‘get it’ whether on a small or large-scale.
The most powerful light bulb experience came with one of our math teachers. His practice was already standards based, but after some conversation he realized revising his grading policies could make a huge impact. He reflected and commented that it felt like a ton of bricks hitting him. Why would non-academic factors be included in a grade? Why not open up assessment opportunities and give kids a voice? Why not relinquish some of the control to the learners themselves? Not only is he finding success with the shifts, he can better spend his time. He can create tools the students use to learn instead of making sure all the homework grades are entered. He can consider all the divergent learners in his environment instead of deciding how much their binder organization grade will count. The lightbulb has turned on and it is shining brighter each day.
Ready for the next level? I walked into his room the other day and he was talking with a student about assessment. She was asking about a concept with which she lacked confidence. This teacher simply said that she needed to practice until she felt prepared and explained that he was willing to provide any support necessary. The student was concerned about a quiz on Friday and that she may not be ready. The teacher commented that the assessment date was set, but why would she assess on that day if she didn’t feel proficient?
Whoa. Not only had the light bulb turned on for this teacher, but it turned on for the student as well. Learning was communicated as the most important feature of the class, not compliance to a particular timeline.
Empowerment is empowerment no matter whether with teachers or students. Once they can take something and make it their own, the light bulb goes on. And I love the light bulb.