Saturday, January 25, 2014

When an Ending Lets You Down

I finally finished the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I have to say, first and foremost, that Divergent was my favorite out of the series. The second book in the series, Insurgent, was okay but could definitely be seen as a middle ground text. I excitedly picked up Allegiant, as a few of my past and current students have or are reading this text. A fellow teacher finished this recently and warned me that the ending was disappointing. Boy was she right! There was such great details, triumphs, and conflict found throughout the texts, yet the ending was almost anti-climatic. A sudden change of heart allows a beloved character to be lost, and it seems for everything to then be right in the world. This rightness almost feels fake or that Roth decided to make an ending that, depending on movie rights and box office sales, allows her the ability to write another text.

 I will admit that I read to get away from it all. I want a happy ending. I do not want a reality type ending, thus why I am reading! Instead of "Calgon take me away", my motto is " _______ (name of text) take me away." When an ending lets me down or leaves me feeling bereft I feel a great loss. I know this is dramatic, but I truly make connections to the characters I read about.  **Confession- when I was a young girl I thought that if I stopped reading the characters would be upset with me, as they could not finish their story (I saw them in my mind screaming at me to not shut the book, pleading for me to continue on). I know that this is ridiculous, but I could always clearly see the characters and their actions, thus it was my personal escape and movie.

Therefore, when an ending leaves me feeling as Allegiant did, I see the characters as sad and flat at the end. I feel betrayed by their actions and the actions of the author. It is personal to me, and in reality it is nothing of the sort. Yet, the author wants dedicated readers who feel connections to their characters. My dedication to Roth is lost at this point and I will be moving on to other trusted authors, such as John Green, Markus Zusak, Laurie Halse Anderson, David Levithan to name a few. Maybe I will pick up and re-read a classic from Jane Austin just to push my belief back to authors understanding their readers. Because really, what does a dedicated, neurotic reader to do?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

To Grade, or Not to Grade? That is the Question!

I have been to study groups, teacher learning groups, read many texts, and had discussions with fellow educators concerning the idea of grading. The idea behind grading is that it gives students an idea of how well s/he did with their work and, if the teacher is providing feedback, how one can improve on their work. The idea behind not grading is that the student will then not be focused on the grade, but learning. Now, I will admit, I struggled with this when this thought first came about because I am a grade incentive person (personally). I strive for an 'A' when I attend classes, wanting to learn also. I will say that as a teacher I see the benefit of a student not focusing on a grade. I have had and currently have students who only focus on the grade. "How can I get a better grade?" or "What can I do to get an 'A' in this class?" is asked by some students. My reply is "What can you do to show me you learned this skill?" This stumps many students, as s/he are not used to being asked HOW they can show their learning, but are used to being told what to do in their learning. This change in mind-set is difficult, to say the least. I am having to explain my thinking more to students and have lengthy discussions about what I mean by my question -("What can you do to show me you learned this skill?"). I am fine with this, but why is this such a new concept? It really should not be at this point in time. This thinking has been around for a few years, yet many schools are still not adhering to this thinking. "Why?!" I want to move in this direction, in a more direct fashion. I want to drop grades all together and only use standards to measure student success. My question this week is, can this be done successfully as one teacher in a middle school? Or, does it need to be a group doing this, in order for it to be successful?