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For many years, I’ve hosted a “Holy Crap, I Have to Go Back to Work Tomorrow!” party on Labor Day for my family. This year we made a change and moved the locale to Lafayette. The reason for this? We helped my grandma move from her home there to a senior living apartment in New Ulm.

This will be a huge change for Grandma. It’s a positive change, but any change requires a period of adjustment. Knowing Grandma, it won’t take her long to get settled in!

Change continues as we enter another new school year. Every student progresses a grade and faces a sense of uncertainty with a new teacher or teachers, different classes, and fresh faces in both faculty and students. No matter how excited some students (and parents) are, there’s always a tinge of fear at the change.

Last year at this time, I wrote about my change in grading philosophy to a pass/fail system. I was anxious about making such a drastic change, but told myself I’d have to give it time, even if it started off rough. I made some tweaks during the year and am now prepared to make some more changes to this standards-based grading system.

I decided to go back to grades. However, the grading formula will be different than what many people use, with 90% being an A, 80% a B, etc. To get an A in my class, you will need to achieve 80%. Wow, you might think, that’s an easy A!

Not so fast. Every assignment is worth only four points. A student earns all four points for exceeding the standard on which the assignment is based. If they meet the standard, they get a three. Partially meeting the standard means a two, and not meeting the standard means a one.

What are these standards? They are the Common Core Standards, which have been adopted by Minnesota for English Language Arts. Every one of the assignments I give links to at least one of those standards, which means I need to make sure my assignments have rigor and true meaning; there will be no busywork in my class!

Now 80% doesn’t look so easy. But wait, there’s more! B’s will cut off at 65% and C’s at 50%. Anything below 50% is an F. If you can’t partially meet these standards, you won’t pass. No D? Nope. D’s have always felt like a cop-out: you can’t do average work, but I don’t want to fail you.

The final component to this radical style of grading is one I started to implement last year. Every student has the opportunity to redo most assignments. If a student wants to get a better score, he or she needs to meet with me to go over how to get better. Isn’t our ultimate goal that our students get better at these skills?

I’m a little scared. Any time something changes in education, people tend to get defensive. If it’s not “the way it was when I grew up,” eyes tend to narrow. I believe in this new style of grading though, so I’ll work through any difficulties, just as I did last year. My hope is that by the end of three years, I’ll have a pretty good system figured out. That means I’d better get to that this year or next year!

The other big change deals with my 7th grade classes. The day has finally arrived: my daughter will be in my class.

You think your parents embarrass you? Try having a teacher as a parent. Worse, try having that weird English teacher who reads books with strange voices and loves getting a microphone in his hands in front of large crowds. Even worse, that dad has already put together some video for the first day for the ENTIRE STUDENT BODY in which he sings (which will hopefully be on the school website by the time you read this!). Ugh.

This will be a challenging year. I know Jayna’s class very well. I’ve coached many of the girls for four years in addition to just getting to know a lot of these kids since they started together in Ellendale. Familiarity can be a double-edged sword. Still, it will be nice to start the year knowing all my students and not needing as much of a “get to know you” stage.

Much like Grandma, I’ll have some big changes. Hopefully, we’ll both make it through just fine, with a sunny outlook and a better lifestyle.

Word of the Week: This week’s word is inculcate, which is to instill something in someone’s mind through repetition, as in, “The teacher gave students many opportunities to do work which would inculcate the vocabulary words.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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