Thursday, May 7, 2009


As another semester ends, I find myself reflecting on what all these numbers, calculated to be represented by letters, really mean to me and more importantly for each of my students.

What about the average grade of this student which does not represent the intangible growth he experienced; the student who was inspired to go above and beyond an assignment to learn more for his own pleasure? Or what about this inflated grade of the calculating student which does not represent the apathy, or robotic "just enough to get the points" behaviors she exhibited?

Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted. ~Albert Einstein

What does this "A" "B" "C" really represent? Another class to check off the list? A GPA enhancer or detriment? Although I would like to radically change the system, I do not offer an alternative which would be as effective a motivator.

What I really want to know is what will a student who spent the semester enrolled in one of my classes remember next year....and the next? What did I ask a student to read/do/consider/create which might have a positive impact on his/her future? Or the students he/she will teach?

We cannot discover what ought to be the case by examining what is the case. We must decide what ought to be the case. ~Paul Taylor

How do I revise my methods to give students more autonomy and responsibility for their own learning while including accountability and motivation to attend? I am competing for the time and attention of an increasingly multitasking student in a distracting world. They are in a constant state of prioritizing tasks; often, the one with the harshest consequences for not completing rises to the top.

"The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew every time he sees me, while all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.
~George Bernard Shaw

One of the characteristic of teaching I appreciate is the opportunity to recreate myself each semester. After a short mental escape, I will again reflect on my failures and successes to plan for a new opportunity to be worthy of the time and resources adults commit to the instruction I design. (And do this in an accelerated mode: Summer Term :-O )


Anonymous said...

Your words touched me...Especially, "What about the average grade of this student which does not represent the intangible growth he experienced..." I am blessed to have two daughters--that are opposite in most every way. Blonde/brunette, out-going/shy, athletic/artistic...the list goes on and on. Now that I have been a mom for 13 years (teacher for 17) one of the most challenging tasks for me as an educator/mother is to separate academic success and grades. My oldest daughter is not concerned or motivated by grades in the slightest bit! She has been known to ask: “How many can I miss and still make a C?” This was soooo foreign to me, being "Straight "A" Sally!" My youngest can’t seem to score high enough! She relishes all aspects of school from school supplies to report cards-go figure ;)
Finally, after a discussion with my girls about an upcoming spelling bee I began to understand my oldest daughter’s reasoning… My youngest was chosen to participate in the school spelling bee. She was a little nervous and we were discussing her participation in the car, on the way to school. My oldest asked, “Mom, why should she do the bee? What does she win?” I immediately began to explain that its good experience and she might be known as a wonderful speller. My oldest quickly fired back, “That’s it?!…she might win someone’s OPINION?! That’s all? …it’s not worth it!” What wonderful insight from a (so-called) “C” student!! She and I both know her true intelligence will never be measured by a test or report card. Grades are not WHO you are… just what you DO as a student.
We need more professors out there like YOU to help future teachers to see their students as individuals and not “numbers and letters”. You inspire me!

Julie Williams
O’Rourke Elem. PACE

Cheffie-Mom said...

Very inspirational! We need more teachers like you! Congrats on the Post of the Day Award from authorblog!

The Things We Carried said...

Ah, no wonder you were recognized at POTD! How true this all is!

Anonymous said...

It was my sophomore year of high school that I realized my letter grade didn't matter as much as what I could learn if I just took on an appreciation for the subject and enjoyed the class. My approach is the same for college. I have made B's in some of my classes, but they feel like big fat A+'s because I worked hard and truly learned something. Overall I believe the grade does not because the journey is what counts.

Thanks for your post Dr. Vitulli.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Vitulli,
Thank you for equipping me with a new aproach to teaching. While I am not proficient at teaching through the arts after this semester, I am well on my way. Normally I do not think much of education textbooks, but this textbook is full of useful information and ideas. I also really appreciated all the "goodies" you gave us and I plan to put them to good use. I found the journal articles you provided inspiring and I have saved them for future use. The artifact journals will be an awesome way to incorporate more freedom and art into the subject areas. Making an A in this class is not just about completing the assignments, but more about becoming an efficient teacher who impacts students by engaging them in learning.
Catherine Druhan