Phew!! These two chapters were charged with theories and terms taken from the worlds of education and psychology. From promotion to invention to thought-action gap to chumship, it was tempting to get lost in the sea of terminology. However, I did my best to stay on track with some of the more general and useful ideas Nakkula and Toshalis presented, and I tried to think about some of the implications they present in my classroom.
Nakkula and Toshalis definitely “get it” in the way that they understand the sometimes harsh realities of being a classroom teacher. They also get the fact that we need to assess students for our own inferences as well as for data that we, as educators, must use as part of our own evaluations. “When teachers see upward of 100 students per day and are expected to assess the progress of each of them and then differentiate instruction to meet the varied needs of each individual child, it is no wonder that standardized diagnostics become necessary”(67). Whereas the authors acknowledge that we do need to assess students, they also feel as though “an over reliance on the identification of student deficits can obscure the many assets or talents they may possess...Grading papers can become an exercise in hunting for mistakes rather than scanning for success”(67). I used to be that type of teacher because that’s how I thought I should “correct” papers and essays. However, as I have grown in my teaching practice, I realize that this doesn’t really work. When my students used to get their papers back and look at my red writing all over them, they did not pore over each comment and mentally commit to not making that mistake next time...instead they shut down. So, now, what I attempt to do is focus on three things the student did well in his/her paper and two things to focus on in the revision or next writing assignment. My students respond positively to this type of feedback. And it actually saves me the pain and agony of “fixing” every little error. I think now I’m working smarter not harder, and I think Nakkula and Toshalis would agree. “We must nurture the high end skills just as we must help students develop in areas of relative weakness”(70).
This five minute clip gives us a gentle reminder as to what good student feedback looks like:
I’ve always thought that the name teacher is pretty much synonymous with the name mentor. I I am a teacher and I am a mentor. These are not roles I take lightly. “These studies show that the availability of one natural mentor can yield long-term, substantial benefits for young people, such as increased self-esteem, stronger coping skills, and a more positive view of the future”(97). Obviously, I cannot be a mentor to every single one of my students...and I think that’s ok. However, if I can act as a true mentor to even five of my students each year, the positive benefits are overwhelming. I like to think in these cases, we are even more strongly co-constructing our own and our students identities. “It is educating to care-for oneself, for others, and for the world around us; and it is educating through care-through caring for the student as the pedagogical priority”(98).