Last week, the devil demanded his due. It was progress report time. I pledged to let students reflect and grade themselves and to resolve the grades posted through conversation. But I didn’t realize one thing:
These conversations are exhausting.
It took a lot of time to cajole students to consider follow-up questions and to examine evidence from their writing to justify their scores. A. Lot. Of. Time.
I’m definitely picking my battles. Some students I might not have agreed with, but if they made their case and weren’t way off what I would have said the mark was, then I let it go. In most cases where I couldn’t in good conscience do that, after I asked them to consider the exemplars we studied and look at specifics in their own writing, students changed their evaluations of their own writing. Afterwards, I tried to be encouraging, reminded them this was all process and that they should take this reflection as a foundation to build on.
I did have one conference with a student through my online office hours and it seemed so much better to be having the conversation live. I don’t know how the student felt, but we were able to dynamically look at the writing, I could help direct her attention in real time, and she settled very quickly on a score that seemed reasonable and based on the evidence we had just looked at in her writing.
But there is no way I could do this with all two hundred students.
I remember at one point in my AP classes (back when classes took place in classrooms), I set aside a chunk of time to have one-on-one conferences with students about their writing. It took all week to schedule them all, the meetings were really rushed and did not feel as fruitful as this one-on-one discussion I had during office hours last week.
Maybe, as I’d originally planned, it doesn’t have to be everyone…but darn it, I think everyone would benefit from this process. Even if it’s not everyone who goes through a “live” conference, it still means rethinking and retooling my procedures to try to get those windows with more kids.
P.S. I also got this e-mail from a student:
In this correspondence, I hear Rorshach from Watchmen. She’s looking up and shouting “validate me.” And I have to answer, “No.”
She, too, came by office hours. It was a nice chat, but I still get the feeling that she wants very much to live in the old world.