I’m supposed to complete an assignment where I assess a child in my practicum class’s reading, writing, speaking and listening levels – their “literacy skills.” I watched the child for 2 hours and kept running notes, as advised. This felt a little like spying. Then I held an interview with the child. I asked the student about reading, about writing, about what they love and hate. The student was overwhelmingly kind and eager to give information to me. They respected the format of the interview and gave detailed oral answers. And the student was overwhelmingly excited about reading.
I am now at the point where I must evaluate the student and write a paper about their literacy levels. This means the student has to either be not meeting, satisfying minimally, satisfying entirely or exceeding expectations. But of course the student is exceeding expectations. If they love reading, isn’t that better than most adults?
I’m learning that teachers have to be open-minded and accepting and helpful to all children. I’m also learning that teachers have to put their judging caps on and evaluate kids. Kids need to be put into boxes to succeed, demonstrates the tiresome use of checklists, class records, and percentage grades.
The other thing that makes me believe that children need to be judged is the use of letters to show designations. If students have learning differences, they are labelled with a letter. I don’t know if students know their letters, but teachers do. The letters stick with the students and become a method by which teachers judge them. They can’t help it: they’re being given information. They are open, accepting teachers, so they take those letters and try and accommodate them. What they are forgetting to do when they take those letters is spying on the kids.
When I was spying on the student I was assessing for my assignment, I truly did feel like a teacher. I hadn’t done the requisite reading to prepare me for the assignment – what are the performance standards in literacy for a child at this grade level – so I watched the student with the untrained eye of a monkey observing a human; a human observing a monkey. I was an adult observing a child.
This child did small, incredible things that amazed me. In our interview, the student responded with answers that amazed me. Afterward, the student took me around the library and showed me books they loved. That amazed me. This student, I realized, was exceeding all my expectations.
Of course this isn’t a practical measure of how to evaluate students. But do we need to be doing it that much? Can we just be learning more in class and getting judged on less of it? I learned so much in my two and a half hours watching and speaking with this child. Can we just learn more from our students, to make our classroom a place that fits them better, so we can stop saying that they’re not meeting our expectations? Let’s let them set our expectations. What can these students do?
We are always judging people because we’re humans watching humans; monkeys watching monkeys. We need to take a moment and realize every other person we are watching is a monkey. Because of this we can’t judge others on our scales of not meeting to exceeding expectations. We need to take the time to observe, to spy, then to interview. This is the process we need to take with each student; with each adult. We need to do this to begin to judge, or to begin to judge ourselves.