Monday, December 18, 2017

It's beginning to feel a lot like midterms

So, the semester is winding down, and instead of talking about how grateful all teachers are for the break and how they're secretly putting vodka into their coffee mugs to get through the day, I thought I'd talk about midterms.

Students hate midterms, but you know what?  So do teachers.  At least I do.

I hate the fact that most districts require midterms.  I always felt like a student's grades should be reflective of what they do in class.  If a student shows up every day, turns in his or her work and tries to understand the material, he or she should pass the class just fine.  But districts often require high school classes to have a midterm or final, and make the grade about 20-25% of the student's overall grade.  I hate that.  I don't think so much should be riding on one assessment.

Plus, students stress out over them, even though they don't need to.  At the beginning of the school year I always used to give my classes a little speech about how if they review their material regularly (2-3 times per week), there's no need for a big cram session before the midterm.  Plus, I assume that if you know what's been going on in class, there's no need for a huge cram session, but I like to think I'm what some people might call reasonable.  I never introduced new material right before the midterm or final, because that's cruel. 

However, the importance of test scores have been over-emphasized to kids now, so they hyperventilate at the thought of a major assessment.  This probably comes from too many standardized tests being thrown at them. 

My last year in the classroom, I gave my students the option of writing a paper instead of taking a test.  We could work on it in class, but not outside, and the students could conference with me each class period so I could check in on their progress, and they'd get progress grades as well if they had drafts ready on checkpoint dates.  To me, this is a no brainer - constant guidance and help from the teacher versus one huge test that she can't help us on?  I'd start writing right away.

But no.  The students STILL voted for the test, despite the fact that most of them didn't test well.  I asked why, and they all complained that a paper was just "too much work, and soooo boring!"

I just stared at them.  They had two full weeks before the end of the semester, and still, they wanted a test that they could complain about. 

So I just shrugged and said, "Okay."  Everyone looked relieved.  "But first," I added, "we have some new material we need to cover..."