You met our expectations.

A grade represents the level to which you met your teacher’s expectations of you.  If you do what your teacher wants, you get an A.  Right? Even if this teacher is a passionate mentor who gives credit for creativity and investigation and doesn’t care whether or not you type your papers, an A still means that he approves of your work.

Leaving school, grades are the only thing they give you to take with you on your way.  Your diploma is an acknowledgement that you collected a sufficient number of acceptable grades.  The big symbol they send with you, after TWELVE YEARS OF YOUR YOUTH, says “you met our expectations!”

I’m not saying we shouldn’t ask kids to meet our expectations. The thing is, when the ONLY symbol we really celebrate is about meeting expectations, we’re saying implicitly that that’s the most important thing.

And I want to celebrate compassion, creativity, problem solving, problem finding, ingenuity, leadership, stewardship, responsibility, hard work, open minds, beauty, longevity, partnership, communication, intelligence, technical skills, and self-sufficiency WAY MORE than I want to celebrate obedience.

6 thoughts on “You met our expectations.”

    1. I think we could START by sending them out with portfolios of work that they assemble, and celebrating those with as much circumstance as we do their diplomas. Software does come to mind, and certainly with ActiveGrade we’re trying to head in that direction by allowing students to have input in their own records, and by making those records reflections of knowledge and learning instead of compliance.

      I suspect that this sort of change would need more than a software layer on top of the current system, though. I’m guessing that, until we value carpenters as much as we value lawyers and other highly-educated occupations, teachers won’t be able to change this at a classroom level. Or even a school level, really.

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot this year about how my classes aren’t where I want them to be yet. I’ve been thinking about how to make this more explicit to my students (because, for the most part, they are doing what they are ‘supposed’ to do). Then I saw it, tucked away towards the end of your post…

    ….problem finding…

    Thanks for the blog.

  2. Just wanted to say that I read this yesterday and quoted from it during a little opener in a meeting with colleagues today. We appreciate your words – well said & thanks.

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