Sharing assessment strategies that help students learn
Do you remember how having children of your own changed your perspective on what goes on in the classroom? (If you don't have children of your own yet, trust me - they will have an impact on your teaching!) So take a look at these 2 letters. I don't think any parent would ever actually send either of these, but if they did, which parent would you most want to please?
Thank you for being my child's teacher this year. I wanted to write you this letter to help you better understand my child's needs and my hopes for how you will address them.
First of all, my child really doesn't do well with negative feedback. He has self-esteem issues. Therefore, I would prefer that you approach him with great sensitivity. I've watched him stop working for teachers who have been somewhat critical of his work. If he doesn't do something well in your classroom, please consider whether or not you need to tell him. Positive feedback works great, but he doesn't deal well with feedback when it is negative. We prefer the "no news is good news" approach.
Secondly, please make sure my child gets a good grade. While we want him to learn content, our long-term interest is that he get into college. Low grades on his report card could lower his GPA and hurt his chances of being accepted. If it's not being too presumptuous, I have a few suggestions for how you can help his grade stay high. You might try:
Please realize that I'm not one of THOSE parents. I don't come and ask for special privileges for my child. However, I've heard from lots of other students that different teachers use different strategies. I think it's important for me to share with you how my child learns best. My child has a lot of stress on him. Life is so busy these days for kids. Please be the type of teacher who relieves stress from my child. He has come home complaining that some teachers seem to have unrealistic expectations of their students. They are constantly making students assess themselves, analyze feedback, and take ownership of their learning. When I was a student, teachers made you wait until the end of the grading period and then told you your grade. This caused much less stress for students.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to these requests. I hope you will realize that by following them, young people like my son will get better grades, be rewarded for being nice, improve their self-esteem and have less stress in their lives.
My Son's Parent
Thank you for being my child's teacher this year. I know he's not always the easiest to deal with, but he is a good kid at heart. I want to support you in any way possible. I hope you don't mind me writing you this letter. My intention is not to tell you how to do your job but instead to make sure you feel empowered to push my son to be all that he is capable of being.
My son really needs feedback - whether it's good or bad. In fact, sometimes the feedback that says you did something wrong is the most beneficial since it let's you know how to improve. It would be my dream if every day my son left class with specific and descriptive feedback from you. Even if that's not possible, please don't shy away from making sure he understands what he needs to do to improve.
While we love it when our child makes good grades, we care more about learning and mastering content than we do a specific grade. Obviously we want his grade to accurately reflect his knowledge of the content, but we understand that not every grade along the way will be an A. At the risk of sounding a little pushy, but here are some things I wish you wouldn't do for my son when it comes to his grade:
I want him to work and work hard. I don't know if there is a better life lesson to learn than the lesson that success requires industriousness, intentness, and cooperation. I will add, though, that one thing that has been very helpful for him is when teachers have required him to assess his own progress. We try to teach him that here at home, as well; however, if you are able to give him materials and/or feedback that force him to assess what he knows and what he does not know we would be very thankful.
Thanks again for all the hours you put it in for my child. Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can support you.
Your Student's Parent
So what do you think? Which parent would you rather please? Now take a moment to reflect on your assessment and grading practices. How do they align with the wishes of the fictitious parent you would most hope to please? Any thoughts?