2.18.2009

Old School Rebel!


Sometimes I am so old school. I remember when white boards were first introduced in classrooms. I thought I would never say good-bye to my colored chalk, soiled blouse cuffs, and dry cuticles for some high-powered dry erase markers. I did say farewell and I haven't used a chalk board for at least ten years now!

Now I was never that old school about desks. They always seemed awkward when you wanted students to group together to conference on writing. There was never enough room for them to stow their musical instruments, big coats, and backpacks underneath. I have used tables in the classroom for a long time now. In fact I have students beg to have one of the "old desks" sometimes because they like having their own space.

Old school and new school have always included the plan book and grade book, teacher neccessities handed out at the start of each school year. It is a yearly ritual to organize all your classes on those pages and see how much worse your eyes had gotten over the summer as you try to read the days of the week in the tiny squares placed there for attendance.

Urban legends have floated around the halls of education forever about those grade books going into the archives for one hundred years because there just might be a student who graduated from the district thirty years ago that will be asked on a job application how many days of school he missed in seventh grade.
We need to be ready to give that information. We turn in those books every spring as we leave for another summer break so somebody in the district office will have that information!

Old school has made another big shift. We started doing attendance a few years ago online. I still filled in those little squares each day of the week in my trusty grade book when students were absent. How can we trust a computer? What if it crashes and somebody's life is hanging on what day he/she was sick in 1995? As a teacher you protect your attendance book with your life. It may be coffee stained and have a few germs covering it, but it goes with you each and every day. How could you function if you lost the grades you gave students on their papers?

Now comes the granddaddy of shifts. Recently we were all trained to not only do attendance, but turn our hard copy old school gradebook into a online source. I sat in the training and timidly raised my hand and asked, " Does this mean we don't need to fill in those little boxes every week day of the school year or fill in grades each day on another page?"
She smiled and said, " You are safe! The state does a backup of the system all the time and you will never lose that data! The auditors say it is AOkay to say good-bye to grade books."

Wow! Now that was about a month ago. I hung on with some nostalgia to my worn, coffee stained grade book with the little colored marks showing if students were absent and present. My students kept hinting that they would love a printout of their grades ( What... a sticky note written on both sides isn't official enough for a basketball team grade check?).

Tonight I did it. I sat down, set up an online gradebook, entered all the data, and had beautiful printouts of grades before I knew it. I was amazed how easy it was. My students will be in shock tomorrow. I didn't even enter all the grades as backup in those tiny squares first. I am such a rebel.

I have to be honest here though. I just can't part with that grade book yet. It is filled with lists of things to do, student birthdays, and notes written in the boxes from students when they were waiting to meet with me. I just won't feel so obligated to store it in a fireproof box when I leave the room for lunch. If the water cooler tips over tomorrow and runs all my different colors of ink together on the many pages in my grade book, I will be okay. The Attendance Police will not come and take me away... I have all my data backed up now!

3 comments :

  1. I can smell the chalk dust and remember how I would volunteer to go outside and bang the erasers together ha ha.

    Change is tough. I'm not sure how I'd feel about putting all that info in a computer that could crash at any moment.

    (but I do everything by computer at home)

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  2. What a great post. I think having some kind of grade book or journal would still be important, especially for all those birthday lists, and to do lists, and all those extras that are nice to have in a little book of some sort.

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  3. Wow, what a great post! The picture of the desks sent me immediately back to the days at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy, where all the desks were on runners and each desk contained a hole for an ink bottle. I used to dream of somehow transporting my row of desks (complete with fellow students) out to the sledding hill to see what kind of elaborate tobaggon we had. I still think it would be fun to try! LOVE your posts!

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