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Matt Eddy

Grading - Part Deux

Posted by Matt Eddy May 21, 2015

Maybe you caught the last time I was talking about my grading 'walk-about' -- if not - here -> My kid got a what??


I had been studying, researching, reading, contemplating for a couple years prior to Fall of 2013 -- so don't think this was a whim.  No one forced it upon me (see below) and I felt it was necessary part of my getting better at my craft.


I thought I would report back some of my findings:

  1. Doing something because you want to, as opposed to a school mandate, is way more fun. (Crazy, I know)  My reflection into my grading practices was something I wanted to do, not something that was pushed down from on high -- I suppose that makes all the difference.  I'm probably ahead of the curve.  SBG is coming - it's just a matter of time.
  2. What do you do with Tommy/Sally when they don't learn -- are all students able to learn?  Should they?  If they don't - what do we do then as educators?  Can a student get more than one try at demonstrating their learning?? Can a student demonstrate their learning in a different manor? How does this affect the 'assembly line' approach to education?  Paradigms might need to be shifted and re-aligned.  How can education be more effective for EVERY student.
  3. The Game of School -- If you are like me (and let's hope you aren't) I've been playing this game of school for a while.  The grading part was just the encore.  I wonder to myself now - did I really learn all that much in school or was I just good at parrotting the answer the teacher wanted?
  4. Who moved the cheese? -- Kids are very willing to go with it - parents, not so much.  We have really put a lot of emphasis on GPA.  Maybe more than I am willing to be comfortable with.
  5. Research - Ken O'Conner (@kenoc7) and Rick Wormeli (@rickWormeli2) will certainly give you something to think about. I suppose someone with more letters behind their name than I can give an educated opinion on the research, but the best stuff I have found is from practitioners. It certainly takes some time to ground the theory in your day-to-day practice. I'm still working on it.
  6. Doing What We Have Always Done -- why do we grade the way we do? Ever wonder to yourself??  Is it because it is what we know from being student?? Changing a thought process on something so ingrained in education could be defined as kicking a sacred cow.  But it might be one that needs it.  Does our grades accurately reflect what a student has learned? Or are they clouded with a multitude of confusing issues.
  7. Get rid of -- zero's, late points being docked, extra credit, extra credit for bringing in kleenex, weighting, averages, group grades et al -- the list goes on.  I am ashamed to say I used to do some very bad practices.
    1. Who do you want packing your parachute? The kid with an 83% average, the one who got 100% proficient by the end of training, or the one who got an A because they mopped the floor every Friday after class for extra credit??
  8. Do you have a grading culture or learning culture? -- are kids more interested in learning for it's own sake or doing whatever it is we deem them to do to get the grade they want.  It kinda makes you think a bit about the culture we have created in school.  I would much rather teach in a learning culture.  Maybe that's why I am so intrigued with the SBG grading systems.


What a long strange trip it's been.  After some re-tooling this summer, I hope to be almost fully immersed in a SBG system.  There are lots of schools you can look to for examples and help.


Maybe this summer is a good time to engage in professional discussion around grading practices.  C'mon in - the water is fine.

By Choice

Posted by Tiffany Morey May 5, 2015

In a former blog post, I described how I became an ag teacher by chance. Getting into the profession happened by chance. Staying in the profession was a choice.


This year was the most difficult of my career thus far, and I seriously considered leaving the profession. I know this isn't something that a Teach Ag blogger should say, but it's something that every ag teacher considers at least once in their career. Ag teachers lead very busy and stressful lives, and the burnout rate is high. I came very close to being a part of that statistic.


I thought last year would be the hardest one I faced here in my new job. I was teaching in a new school, living in a new place, was very different from the former teachers, I needed to form a rapport with a whole new group of students, the curriculum I taught was more rigorous, the FFA chapters hadn't been active in past years, and the classroom I inherited was a mess. Every day was a struggle and fraught will new challenges. It couldn't possibly get any worse, right? Wrong.


This year dawned with its own new set of challenges and difficulties. While the FFA chapters had shown great improvement, the students and I had developed great rapport, I was no longer new to the school and the area, and students enjoyed CASE, I was still teaching in the ag garage and did not have a proper facility for what I was teaching. Teaching in a small school made it pertinent to constantly market my classes and find students to take them. While they were interested, they only had so many openings in their schedules and many, many choices of classes to take. My new, more modern way of teaching (CASE) and managing the FFA chapter (AET) also did not sit well with members of the community. They constantly compared me to the old teacher, and criticized the job I was doing. It made me doubt myself and my abilities as a teacher, and scramble to find ways to try and please them. I also was not getting much help when it came to being an FFA advisor, and the stress of managing 2 chapters began to take its toll. Every molehill and small problem began to feel like a mountain, and I became overwhelmed. I was devoting all of my time to my job, and very little to myself. It seemed as if there was nobody to help, and there was no way I could ever get everything done by myself. I was stressed to the max and it started to affect my health and well-being. The only solution seemed to be quitting teaching ag and finding a new job.


Thankfully, some good friends stepped in and helped me prioritize and seek the help and guidance I needed to persevere and succeed as an ag teacher. The administration approved plans to remodel the classroom for next year into a real lab, and we got a grant to furnish and outfit it properly. Guidance is behind me and has done a great job marketing my classes. While the numbers still aren't fantastic, there is a push to make the CASE classes count for science credit, which will help solve the numbers problem. I got a great final observation from my principal, which reaffirmed my belief that I am an effective ag teacher. And while I may never satisfy the members of the community to expect the program to be "like it used to be", I've learned to grow a thicker skin and know that there are enough good, helpful people who are supportive of me. I've gotten better at asking for help, and not being afraid to seek assistance in solving problems.


Choosing to stay in the profession was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. However, I'm glad I did. As much as teaching ag makes me crazy and can be tough, I can't imagine doing anything else or anything as meaningful. I became an ag teacher by chance. I am staying an ag teacher by choice.



Wes Crawford


Posted by Wes Crawford May 1, 2015

Social media is not really new anymore; I just celebrated a decade of Facebook last year (okay, celebrating's a strong word). So to call it an innovative marketing tool may be a bit behind the times, but it is something neat all the same.  Our Ag Business, Leadership, and Economics (ABLE) class has had a ball with using it to market our plant sale, which is currently in the throes of the event as we write.


We've identified hashtags for this year's endeavor - #sutherlinffa and #FFAflowers.  We've even gone so far as to use Facebook post boosting on a very limited basis to see what we can accomplish.  The clever thing is that you can really target your Facebook audience you want with the tools available, which makes it great to apply those theoretical marketing plans.  This means geographics, demographics, interests, and more.  Pictures, videos, posts, reshares and more have led to more than one of my students being unfriended by their peers - but loved by their Facebooking grandmothers - I'm sure.  But we've also cracked 6,000 post views in the past 48 hours within 25 miles of our greenhouse - and Facebook tracks such data for you!


With that, here at the end of the process, I feel like you could also use social media to chart the emotional rollercoaster these 20 students have under gone the last few months. Most are not of agricultural origins, so the idea of raising a crop, tending to all its needs, surviving disasters, and more have been all new experiences.  And like other teenagers, they tend to blurt said experiences and feelings to the world.


So, while I have no data to back it up, here are the hashtags I predict you might see appended to Tweets and status updates over the course of the past five months to now:

In January:


In early February:

In late February:




In March:







In early April:






In mid April:






In late April:


#forgoodnesssake #pleasetakethem




In May:



Enjoy the spring. Keep on #tagging.



What would your students tag?  What would YOU tag your posts with?  #youcanleadastudentowater #butyoucantmakethemwaterlongenough

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