|On the list of things I'm not allowed to admit...
||[Jun. 24th, 2013|09:45 pm]
Every time you send me an e-mail or call the school asking if there's any extra credit your child can do, I die a little.
You see, it's not that I don't understand; you want your child to be successful, and you feel it's your duty to help them be successful. In fact, it is your duty to do so, that's not what causes the little death for me.
But, I have so many problems with the idea of "extra-credit" that it is really going to be difficult for me to organize them coherently. I am going to try though, so bare with me:
First, why are you asking me, instead of your student? In fact, your student probably did ask me, and I told them the same thing I'm going to tell you at first. There are tons of extra learning opportunities within my daily assignments, and your child should take advantage of them. You see, your child was hoping that you would intimidate me into giving them some extra piece of easy busy work. The worse part about that is, you will succeed. Rather than arguing my personal educational philosophy with you, once you become insistent, I will dig up an extra piece of busy work, and assign it a random number of points, if only to get you to stop calling my boss and telling her how horrible I am for not giving extra credit assignments.
Which brings me to my second issue with extra credit. I don't like fostering the point addiction you and your students have. It's not your fault. You've been trained by our education system to equate points with success. What I do with that random number of extra credit points is put them in a nebulous "citizenship" grade. In my years of teaching, I've lowered what that grade is worth from 15% to 5% of the overall grade. It's never counted for much, but for some reason, seeing those points on my online gradebook makes you happy, and causes you and your student to crave more.
But that's not all. I consider "extra credit" to mean that the student has learned above and beyond what we're learning in class. The thing is, you as a parent have already taken this class, and most likely, the classes beyond the one your student is in. If I allow the "extra credit" assignment to go home, most of the work that comes back will be yours, well-intentioned-parent. Instead of actually looking up how to solve the problems I would be tempted to send home for themselves, they'll turn to you, and whether or not you mean to, you'll do the assignment for your child, all to help them succeed. But, have you really helped them succeed?
Ideally, in my class, the grade your child has reflects what they have learned. If your child is to the point where you feel they need extra credit, you are probably asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is, what can my child do to learn what he hasn't yet? I stay at school daily at least an hour after the final bell. I use that time for grading and planning the next day, but I willingly forgo that and stay later, much to my husband's dismay, in order to tutor those kids who come in to take advantage of the time I'm there.
I understand that your child is not a good test taker, but ultimately, paper pencil tests are the most efficient way I have to assess the most students against the learning goals I'm teaching towards. What you have to understand as a parent is that, since your child is not a good test taker, I am going to have to find other ways to assess their knowledge. So, I invite my students to come in after school if they have failed a test to retry the test, with me reading a second version of the test too them, and we work through the problems together. If the student was having a hard time reading, this will address that weakness. If the student just has a hard time concentrating for more than 5 minutes at a time, we'll take several days to retry the test. If your student doesn't meet the goals we've been targeting in class though, I am going to tutor them, and send them home with problems to try on their own. These are not extra credit, nor even required, but attempting them means they might be more successful when they retry the test a third time.
The thing is, your student most likely won't try those problems, unless I assign them a certain number of points. And, most likely, they'll get you to do those problems if they are worth points So, even while I'm working with your child, I'm inwardly wondering whether this time it will be worth it. I'm an optimist at school, so, I'll do it anyhow, hoping that this time will be the one time a student does what I've asked. But the pessimist I am at home knows better.
So, please, stop killing me one phone call or e-mail at a time. You don't really want extra-credit for your student, you just want me give your kid a passing grade without them having learned the standards I'm trying to teach them.
Your Child's Teacher