Schooling Magazine

They're Better Than This.

By Mrsebiology
I spent my morning giving feedback on student blog posts.  Specifically, the posts of my Biology classes.  The ultimate purpose of  their blogs is to serve as portfolios at the end of each semester, with myself and the students deciding what will go on their blogs as their evidence of understanding--not only of the I can statements, but of the overarching big questions and the connections between them.  Until the end of the semester, however, I require some assignments go on their blog so I can see where they're learning is at.  At the end of each semester, students will reflect on all of their posts, adding and taking away whatever they feel does or does not represent their best representation of their acquired understandings.
I spent my morning frustrated.  Some students have not been keeping up with their blogs.  And the majority of the ones that wrote their required posts had only presented a surface-level understanding of the concepts, giving one or two sentences where a few paragraphs would have been needed to show evidence of understanding.   I had even given students time in class to complete the posts, which only served to deepen my frustration.
I spent my morning trying to figure out where I went wrong.  Perhaps I hadn't given explicit enough directions.  Maybe there was some confusion in what was supposed to go on the blogs in my sub plans, since they did their posts on days when I wasn't in class.  Maybe my prompts just really sucked and were boring and uninteresting to them, even though I tried to jazz them up by having them write a love letter from E. coli to their human host or write a Dear Abby letter on behalf of a photon named Phil.  I agonized over the fact that I should have let them write more from themselves than from any prompt I give them, that maybe the lack of effort was really from a lack of relevance.
But all of those were possible explanations.  That didn't excuse what hadn't happened on their blogs.  
I spent my afternoon upset and disappointed.  I was upset and disappointed in myself, mostly for not providing more engaging opportunities for them to show me what they knew.  I chastised my students, though, giving them my usual rant about getting work done, that this was evidence I needed to see if they understood the I can statements, telling them that they would get all of their posts done because it was their final exam they should be working on all semester, blah blah blah.  But I ended my usual rant with something a little different.
I told them that I know they're better than this.  Instead of blank stares a few heads popped up, a few eyes rolled towards me quizzically.  
They're better than this.  They have been trained that school is a series of tasks to slog through rather than a place to learn; they can't see what they can really do when they're learning, when they take a risk, when they do something other than the usual mundane tasks of school such as completing a worksheet or copying down definitions.
My students are better than what they showed me on their blogs.   But I don't think they realize it yet.
Did they ever realize it?  And, if so, where did that realization go? 

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