Friday, February 21, 2020

Making the Grade

Preparing Your Students (and Yourself!)
It’s midterm and finals time for all of my junior high and high school students. I’ve worked with my schools to make sure accommodations are in place for students who will take their exams in separate settings. I’ve met with the staff who will be administering the exams, and I’ve arranged my schedule when I’ll be the one administering. I’ve worked with my students to create comprehensive study plans, and most importantly: I’ve made sure that teachers, families, and support staff understand that the work must be done by my students.
            I’ve often found that the staff supporting students with different learning needs feel that the students’ grades are a reflection of their abilities as support staff and educators. While I also want my students to succeed, I do not share this belief. Here are some helpful reminders for what can be a stressful time of year:

·      I will work hard to teach my students the literacy, language skills and strategies that they need in order to access curriculum.
·      I will work with teachers to modify tests and assignments to meet the language levels of my students.
·      I will support my students in advocating for their learning needs.
·      In the end, their grades are not a reflection of my abilities as a teacher of the deaf, but a reflection of their abilities as a student.

Offering Support , Encouraging Independence
            I can provide resources for my students and teach them how to use them. I cannot make my students use these materials. I can instruct my students in how to study effectively and effectively for exams. I cannot go home with them and make them implement these practices. Some of my students are strong academically and in honors or AP-level classes. Some students struggle more and are appropriately placed in more basic or even remedial-level classes. While I want everyone to do well, it is not to the benefit of my students if I “give” them answers or overly support them, especially during exams. This creates an unrealistic picture of the students’ true abilities and skill levels, and can lead to incorrect placement or expectations in future classes.

It is not my job to make sure all of my students get As, but it is my job to ensure that they have access to the curriculum, and that I am teaching the skills needed in order for that to happen. When grades are lower than expected—or desired—I work with my students to analyze why that is. Did the student apply the study strategies we discussed? Did they take advantage of the tools, accommodations and modifications available to them? Did they advocate for what they needed? Did the teachers provide agreed-upon support tools? And of course, no matter what the final grade may be, I always try to emphasize that a grade is just a grade. It gives some academic information but does not define my student as a person.

So here’s to finals! How do you support your students and educational teams?