To those of you who attended Open School night, thank you for listening; and to those who were unable to come, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you. In case I spoke too quickly or fell too much in love with my own jokes, I want to reiterate some key points, and I wanted to attach Welcome to LLC 2012, a PDF version of the handout.
Of the six bullets designed to communicate what your kids will learn, the most important is “play nicely with one another.” I say this not because of some touchy-feely impulse to make class seem all rainbows and unicorns, but because your kids are going to learn a lot about reading, writing and researching, and all that learning will have more power if your kids can associate a positive feeling with it.
I don’t grade individual essays or responses to literature; every unit culminates in a portfolio assessment. Why? A few reasons. One, I want your kids to struggle (and to feel good about struggling). I want to be able to ask them to do things they don’t already know how to do, and have them take intellectual risks without being punished for it. The portfolio approach allows kids to select their best work from several assignments, and requires them to reflect on what they learned through the process of struggle. And the multiple dimensions of assessment (for example, in the reading rubric) allow your kids to get reward for what they do well instead of being punished for not operating at peak capacity every day.
My class should not stress out your son or daughter. The portfolio approach is one mechanism for relieving some of the pressure of schoolwork, and communication is another. If your child can’t complete an assignment for one reason or another, she isn’t going to be penalized with a black mark next to her name in my gradebook. Life will go on for all of us, even if our mutual friend can’t write a one-page response to chapter 6 of Lord of the Flies. Two important sub-points: first, your child should tell me that she was unable to do the work before we have class; second, I don’t want you to worry about this approach cultivating bad habits. Believe me, we’ll talk if this happens too often.
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