Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Kinder, Gentler Failing

Let's not leave anything to assumption: I am decidedly NOT participating in NaBloPoMo. And that should settle that guessing game once and for all.

The list of daily and nightly and everywhere-in-between obligations, that I have been racing around to meet lately is just too long to detail. And probably not that interesting. And detailing them might come off as whiny or attention-seeking anyway, and that is contrary to how I am actually feeling about all of these involvements, which is actually invigorated and satisfied. I can't say that there has ever been another time in my life when I have felt as invigorated and satisfied as I have been feeling these past few months. And if that is not the most boring, gag-inducing sentence I have ever written, then I don't know what is. So let's just skip all the regurgitation and jump ahead to last night's PTO meeting.

Last night's PTO meeting was riddled with all the usual PTO crap - the budget, the volunteer "opportunities", so on and so forth - but the highlight of the agenda was the introduction of the New Report Cards. Apparently, the teachers have been grueling over the development of New Report Cards for quite some time. As they (the report cards, not the teachers) are about to be piloted to the school for the first trimester, they (the teachers, not the report cards) thought that the PTO deserved a little preview.

The mention of the New Report Cards in the newsletter that came home ahead of time was enough to lock me in to attending this meeting. Because, what? New report cards? Why? Doesn't anyone believe in tradition anymore? Besides me? Anyway, I schlepped myself to the school library and sat through thirty minutes of mind-numbing discussion about...I can't even remember... with one eye trained on the library door awaiting Boyfriend, who was coming to pick up the Tornadoes and take them home. Just as the New Report Card presentation began, I saw Boyfriend's silhouette pass by. I know that at this point you think I have meandered far away from my story, but Boyfriend's appearance here is important. Okay, it isn't really. But he did look really handsome and distracted me momentarily from my purpose, which was to find out why yet another American institution was being tinkered with. Anyway. Back to the story.

The thing is, they've done away with the F. Because the F is demoralizing. Let me repeat that. They have taken away the grade that signifies a complete lack of effort, on the part of the student, to produce work that is adequate. Because it's demoralizing. This is what the teachers have been grueling over. To quote one of the presenting teachers: "Our job at this level of education is to create model students, not to judge."

Therefore, failure is hereby abolished. The new grading system involves A, B, C, P, and D. A, B, and C retain their traditional meanings, for the most part, except that C now simply means "working at grade level." And here I thought C meant "try a little harder, kid." P is new. P basically means that your kid is trying really hard, but it's just not happening. And okay, I get it. It makes sense to have a grade like this. IEPs, special education, so on and so forth. I get it. I'm down with the P. But what about the kid who just doesn't care? Who doesn't care and who makes no effort and who turns in sucky work, or no work at all, and is possibly a disruptive presence? This kid gets a D. Because? Anything lower would be demoralizing.

I'm not trying to judge here, I'm really not. But I kinda sorta do expect these teachers to judge. At least I expect them to judge the quality of the work being done in their classrooms. Why is everything for this generation of kids being watered down and turned into a big ol' hug? Why are we ELIMINATING failure? I don't know. Maybe it's me. But I couldn't help but walk away from that meeting feeling flabbergasted. And you know what else? A little demoralized.

Then I came home and actually gave my girls a big ol' hug, because in the scheme of things, that is where I come in. I count myself lucky to have kids who want to achieve and who do not have any additional learning hurdles to overcome. And unless something goes horribly wrong along the way, this new grading system isn't really going to be a direct issue for us. But I just don't get the whole elimination of failure/everyone gets a trophy/"don't worry be happy" attitude that is manifesting with and around the next generation.

Well, guess what? I am all through generating controversy for today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

NaBloPoMo, You Are a Cruel Suitor

Well here we are, back in the fated month of NaBloPoMo. Back where it all began. Two years ago this month, AficioNada was born - and if you don't recall, she was borne of spite: slightly impure, somewhat narcissistic spite, but, admittedly, spite nonetheless. Actually, wouldn't all forms of spite be narcissistic? I mean, otherwise, why bother?

Anyway, two years have passed and I'm still here, blogging. Well, semi-blogging. I'm not so much on the AficioNada upkeep these past few months. And I do find that bothersome, you know. Because truth be told, I've come to enjoy blogging. Not just the writing of one, but the reading of others. I have found and followed an inspiring -and often totally hilarious - list of other people's blogs over the past two years, gleaning the spark and motivation to keep my own writing going. Sadly, though, I find that when I do not come to the keyboard to write my own, I often fail to read others as well. And that is just shameful. I deserve a spanking.

So what do I make of the fact that I still sometimes let entire weeks go by without posting anything? What do I make of the realization that, if you neglect your blog, if you do not write it, they will not come? For one thing, I'm pretty sure at this point I'm talking to myself. For another, while I don't find it AT ALL weird and dorky that I am talking to myself while placing my innermost thoughts on the Internet for anyone walking by to read...see, that's just not a true statement at all, because I actually find it completely weird and dorky. What would help it to feel not so weird and dorky is if, once again, I embraced the whole blogging process and actually did all the things I have come to enjoy about blogging in the first place. Like reading yours and writing mine. And, hey: what better time to begin the embracing than NaBloPoMo?

It would be fairly outrageous of me to make any kind of a statement right now that implies I will actually participate in NaBloPoMo. You know, given my record . But it would be fairly symbolic if I at least gave it a little hug. So that is my goal for the remainder of November: to give NaBloPoMo a little lovin'. Just a small squeeze. We'll see what it leads to.

Life is certainly ripe for the writing right now: We are about to embark upon the new gymnastics meet season. Sixth Grader is serving me up a whole new batch of disturbing "I'm Growing Up Whether You Like It Or Not" material. Fourth Grader is becoming less cheeky and more pre-adolescent-y by the day. All kinds of changes are afoot. Before I sat down tonight to write this post, I thought of them as Reasons I Don't Have Time to Write. But now? They are Things I Will Talk To Myself About (...on the Internet...dorky...) Until I Am Once Again Worthy of Readers.

Let the dorkiness begin. Again.