Skip to main content

"Sorry Ms. Witcher, but I hate science."

This week I want to share a quick story of a student comment that I've been chewing on. I have a student in my 8th grade science class who I really enjoy working with. She's funny and frank and a few days ago she said something that just kills me:
"Sorry Ms. Witcher, but I hate science."
I followed up in the way I usually do:
"Oh, that makes me so sad! Tell me, what subject do you like?"
We went on to have a great conversation about her love for social studies and English, her favorite and least favorite books, and what she does in her free time. The next day, she brought it up again and added the detail that hit me hardest:
"Ms. Witcher, do you know why I hate science? I had this teacher in fourth grade who didn't explain anything and then failed me in math and science."

This explains a lot. It's wild to me that a student could hate a subject--but I get it. I hated math as a student...and now I teach math. It has me thinking, what changed for me? Reflecting back, I can see that I started enjoying math when I stopped being evaluated and math became purposeful. When I was finally using math as a tool for discovery--in my case that was understanding patterns in experimental data--the practice of math because purposeful. I can say the same for writing. My writing classes were my least favorite. I was always getting points off for poor comma usage (can you see it still?) and I didn't see the purpose in studying writing. Now I find technical writing to be one of the most satisfying practices in my workflow.

This student quote and my own experiences have helped me realize the importance of moving beyond evaluative reporting in my classes. I can see that it's more important to support my students learning with authentic narrative feedback and minimize my use of grades.

Have you had a conversation like this? How did you respond?


Popular posts from this blog

A Culture of Iteration: Policies and Practices for a Revision-FocusedClassroom

Success in the real world depends on a person's ability to iterate. to understand the definition of success on a task to seek feedback early and often to use that feedback to revise and refine until successful As teachers, its our job to scaffold this process, with developmentally-appropriate differentiation, until our students can fly solo. As I sit here writing this, my  SO  Dan is at his desk  red-lining  a building diagram for a warehouse in Canada. When he's done, the diagram will go back to his team of engineers where they will respond to Dan's feedback with a better design. They'll repeat this process until both building code and client requirements have been met. To do this work, which requires an iteration cycle that can last over a year or more, Dan has to understand building code and client needs, seek feedback from other engineers and the client, and use that feedback to revise and refine until the design is ready for implementation. ​Dan wasn'

Back-to-School: Consider Your Feedback System, Not Grading System

One question I ask other teachers is “How important is feedback in learning?” Every teacher I talk to agrees that feedback is crucial. It’s how both teacher and student gets better. Research backs the importance of feedback; building off of John Hattie’s work comparing factors on learning, Evidence for Learning’s toolkit ranks feedback as having the highest impact out of their 34 approaches (along with meta-cognition) with a +8 months’ impact on students’ learning progress. I follow the feedback question with “How important are grades in learning?” It might seem like a loaded question. You can imagine how teachers respond: “They’re not.” Why give grades, then? We’ll save that topic for another occasion. For now, I just want to point out that we are frequently asked to consider and describe our grading system by students, parents, colleagues, and administrators. We’re rarely asked about the much bigger and more important component of our work: feedback. With back-to-school qu

Part 2 - Tools for an Equitable Feedback System: Engaging with Criteria

This series of posts will cover a variety of bite-sized strategies that can be incorporated into a more holistic feedback system. To learn more about the research behind these approaches, we recommend you first read our white paper . Part 1 - Feedback is Emotional For feedback information to be useful, it must communicate:  Where am I going? (What are the goals?) How am I going? (What progress is being made toward the goal?) Where to next? (What activities need to be undertaken to make better progress?) (Hattie & Timperley, 2007).  Supporting students in engaging with the grading criteria helps give context to the feedback to come. In other words, it does the groundwork of helping them determine for themselves, "Where am I going?"