Elephants in the Classroom

One of this week’s reading is entitled “9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us.” An elephant in an ordinary room is “an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about.”  Every single “elephant” mentioned throughout this article rang with astounding truth. There are too many issues that teachers and administrators are aware of yet won’t make appropriate changes. The two that stood out to me the most were that students almost always forget what they “learn” and grades, not learning is what teachers, parents, and students are focused on.

What students are taught often stays in between their ears only long enough for them to get tested on it. I know this with certainty because whenever I asked my parents for help with homework in high school, they were rarely able to offer any assistance. Even though I am only a sophomore in college, I don’t remember basic science terms or math equations I learned in high school. The only specific aspects I remember about my high school education is the books I read in my English class and some of the projects we did. For students who liked math or science more than English, I’m sure their memories are the exact opposite. I didn’t enjoy these subjects, but I did enough work to get A’s. This brings me to my next point.

In my opinion, caring only about grades is the equivalent to caring only about appearance. The letters A through F are meant to represent a student’s content knowledge, but they mean so much more than that. Most high school students have heard, “Get good grades so you can get into college” at least once in their lives. Grades is how people measure their intelligence and therefore their importance in the world. Low grades tell students that they are not even a little intelligent or important.

This semester, I am enrolled in two classes that don’t give grades until the end of the semester. At first, I was really frustrated by this because I have gotten into the habit of checking my grades regularly. I thought not having any access to my grade might kill me. Fortunately, I’ve had a completely opposite experience, and I’m still standing to tell you about it. I originally assumed not knowing my grade would mean not getting any feedback; however, I was very much mistaken, and not knowing my grades all semester turned out to be a good thing. I became more focused on fulfilling my learning to a standard that satisfied me, not a grading scale.

Although grades may do more damage than good in many cases, they are here to stay. What we as teachers can do, however, is give our students constant, constructive, positive feedback and do our best to instill the mentality that learning matters more than grades do.