My first assignment at Teachers' College a million years ago, was this:
WHAT IS NORMAL?
Having read a great book titled "Everyone is normal...until you get to know them!" I was rather baffled by the question even then. Having hosted 2 American teacher trainees over the past year, and having listened to their frustrations at teaching to tests and being governed by grades and loathing textbooks, I know that there is a sense of immense frustration and disillusionment among many overseas teachers who are compressed into the constraints of GRADING.
So, how can I put this into an analogy for other teachers so we can get a real sense of what grading LOOKS like to kids?
Hmmm...when my son was born there was a chart of norms for him for height and weight growth. He was born small and didn't ever sit on the NORMAL line of growth progress. He was underweight. I fretted. I fed him all that his tiny, underdeveloped tummy could tolerate. I stopped short of stretching him though on a rack (I am fairly certain that went out with the dark ages.) Nothing worked.
He is still of slender build aged 11 and still very short compared with what is normal it seems. He is smart, funny, well-rounded (though not in tummy!) and is a pretty happy kid all up. Is that normal? YES! No amount of stuffing things down his throat or (God forbid) stretching him on a rack would ever get him to NORMAL though, as he really is expected to be taller and rounder.
The same applies in the learning sphere. My deepest thinkers and questioners would probably bomb on some written test. They don't appear to qualify against NORMS for reading or writing. Yet their ability to self-manage, collaborate and participate etc. are exceptional. Where's the test for that? How would someone GRADE that?
And if you need more evidence of how ridiculous norms and grades and textbooks are, given the world we are now living and growing in, take a loooooong hard look at the richest, most successful entrepreneurs and CEOs etc. Many of the richest and most successful people in the world actually FAILED high school education!
Or did education actually fail them?
Teachers across the globe are trying to embrace a new dawn in education that focuses on how learners think, take responsibility for their own learning, goal set, evaluate, reflect and plan. Grades don't exist for that type of learner and lets hope that there is never a box created to shove them into. This generation of learners are not textbook - they are out of the box and happy to be there! We have moved forward faster and faster as the normal constraints have been removed on how we learn, this propulsion will only continue to gather momentum as we allow conventional restrictions to fall away, replaced by a shift in pedagogy and mindshifts in administrators and leaders of educational institutions. Let's hope that the world is not just ready for these learners but is ready for the amazing learning that we can do through them.