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The First Week

So... I'm back in the classroom and the whirlwind of planning, and integrating gradeless has begun. The first day of school was something new where the principal invited parents to come to school for the morning. There was a 10 minute time slot per period so that the parents could meet the teacher. I was quite nervous about this as I knew there would be a million and one questions about going gradeless. Thankfully, I had prepared a parent letter with some of the details of this process and felt armed enough to tackle any question thrown my way.

I was completely surprised by the number of parents that attended! My classroom was almost full. And...the parents did not come with pitchforks, and were (if I wasn't deluding myself) somewhat happy that gradeless was here. Perhaps the ideas of essentially having me as a one on one tutor with their child or that there would be immediate feedback through meaningful conversations with their child put them at ease, but I was relieved that they seemed to be giving me the green light to work with a gradeless framework.

In the classroom, the kids have been adjusting to this new change. What? No homework and no notes? Instead, you want me to listen to what's being taught and actually think more on my own? As the days continued, the kids were more and more willing to participate and have a voice in class so that they could demonstrate their understanding and interact with me. At first they were confused that I wouldn't accept a simplistic answer, but adjusted to me forcing them to support their ideas with textual proof. I purposefully modelled the level of detail and thought that I wanted them to demonstrate in further work during these conversations about the content questions to a short story. The weird thing was that most of them had written notes and did the work that would have normally been assigned as homework, but I didn't check them and actually diverted from them in our discussion to prompt them to more insightful analysis.

I continue to struggle a little with trying to gain acceptance from some of my colleagues for innovative assessment styles and allowing students have choice with their assignments. For the novel study unit, I have approval from my department head to give the students choice of 5-8 novels that they can study. This is very encouraging and should engage more students.  There are so many ideas floating in my head about gradelesss... I wish that I had unlimited resources and authority to try and develop different things. I hope that the gradeless roller coaster ride will be interesting and not fling me off into space!


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