Burying our students. Sounds scary right? Sadly it's happening all over the world. Educators from all walks of life are allowing or helping students dig a hole that they can't possibly get out of. Have I been guilty of this before? Probably, and all for the sake of sending a message and holding them accountable for their actions. Why? Because it will prepare them for the real world. Really? Last I checked, I live and work in the real world and always get second chances. And so should students.
Giving students a zero or letting them earn a zero is the easy way out in my opinion. Look, as a teacher I made the same error early on in my career. A student didn't hand in the assignment or project? No problem, you just earned yourself a zero. I will teach you a lesson. Really? As time went on though, I realized that there must be a better way. I would make sure every option imaginable was exhausted in order to put this student in a position to succeed. I would also question whether or not I was providing engaging learning experiences. Towards the end of my teaching career, I finally felt that I truly was doing right by kids. It was no longer cool to bury them and basically give them no chance to somehow learn the material on their terms.
As I transitioned to administration I wanted to make sure that student's best interests were kept at heart. It was no longer acceptable to simply hand out a zero or fail a child just because that's what they earned. It should be more about mastery of content rather than a "I gotcha!" Don't get wrong, at some point if a student does not do the work then they don't do the work. No one every said that being an educators was going to be easy. Motivation, differentiation, relevancy, innovation, and finding a way to connect with each child should always be at the forefront of all our minds. But this all easier said than done. It takes a different mind on behalf of all school stakeholders to understand that mastery of content trumps a student receiving a letter grade.
So how can students, parents, teachers, and administrators come together to ensure things stay above ground? Over the years I have experienced or researched the following best practices......
So what do you say, pull those students out of the holes that we have collectively dug, fill them back in, and make a commitment to never bury another student during your time as an educator. We will all be better off in the long run.
Brad Currie is the author of All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities. He is one of the founding partners of Evolving Educators LLC. Brad is a 2014 ASCD Emerging Leader and Google Certified Trainer. He currently serves as a K-8 Supervisor of Instruction and Middle School Vice Principal for the Chester School District in Chester, NJ. Learn more about Brad by following him on Twitter @bradmcurrie or visiting his website at www.bradcurrie.net.