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Are we BREEDING Poodles?

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

I’ve been listening to the book by Sonya Renee Taylor, The Body Is Not an Apology. In the book, she discusses how we are constantly comparing ourselves and other human bodies to an “ideal.” It’s like us comparing all dogs to the poodle. It made me think about how we compare our students to the “best” or “ideal” student. Do teachers have an ideal student in mind when we look at students? How does that impact the way we grade? #NOBODYISINVISIBLE

In education, we have been talking about differentiation, but when we grade, all students need to achieve the same level of proficiency. The path may be different (#differentiation), but are we really allowing our students to identify as themselves when we use the same assessment for most students - even when we try to differentiate? Aren’t teachers and the national state tests (SATs, AP Tests, LSATs, etc.) saying to students that if you aren’t a poodle, then you have not achieved the expectations?

Think about your #rubrics - who are they created for? Every child? Even when you work hard at creating a fair rubric, and let students see it before the assessment? Feels good - right? Still, we are poodling our students. Makes you think, right? I know I started looking at the way I have been grading since I started teaching, but how I graded my students in the beginning of my teaching career was based on how I was graded as a student. I am starting to make changes, but it’s slow. Recently, competency based education has become all the rage, and I honestly like it more than the way I used to evaluate students. Unfortunately, poodling is completely evident in this system as well.

Schools are changing. The way we educate our students is changing. The way we evaluate our students has needed changing for as long as I can remember, but are we willing to embrace that change, because it is going to be hard and laborious? As we shifted to online learning last year due to the COVID pandemic, how many teachers asked themselves about cheating? I know I wondered about it, and I had several conversations with my colleagues about it. We, as teachers, have always worried about cheating. As I started to create my own curriculum, I spent a lot of time reflecting on plagiarism. This thinking has shifted me to ask this question - what are we doing to engage students in the discussion around plagiarism? Teachers can no longer just tell our students not to cheat, or watch them like the hawks of teachers in the past.

What if we were to develop those skills with students? Let them use their notes, and the internet, but also have them reflect on their need for that material, and how they might be able to complete an assessment with less dependency on their notes and/or the internet. If we truly want our students (and ourselves) to be able to communicate what we’ve learned, we have to understand what it does and doesn’t mean to “use our brain.” The internet is NOT going away, and kids often comment that they learn more from watching YouTube than they do from schools these days. How do we embrace that, and let every student be different?

All dogs will never look like #Poodles.

No human will ever look the same as the next person, yet we keep trying.

Our students learn differently. We know that, but they also need to express their learning differently too. Can we support that? Share an idea below if you can on how we can allow students to be themselves in every way, including assessing them.

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