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School of Thought

Insights & Ideas for Online Teaching

A Teacher's Journey of Positive Deviance: From the Trenches Part 1

Positive deviance, the way I see it, I will do anything to help my students learn.  I don’t care whether it will make me popular or well-liked.  I am driven, passionate about education, and willing to work as hard as possible to reach every student.  I want to create lifelong learners.

I am one who is always pushing the barrier and innovating my instructional practices. I understand that no two teacher’s classrooms will or should look exactly the same, but to keep with old methods because it has always been done that way is a ridiculous notion.  Times change, people evolve, research and learning continue, and we cannot in good faith sit idle.  If we stagnate, our kids stagnate.  We must be lead learners in our environments, model what we expect, and drive our students to seek knowledge.

Standards-based learning and grading were a good fit with my mindset.  I needed to be learning focused and wanted a system that clearly communicated mastery levels to my students and parents.  I desired to be criterion-referenced rather than norm-referenced. The culture of learning present in my classroom is a testament to the value of standards-based learning and grading.  My students are performing at higher levels and are more engaged in the learning process than ever before.

At the beginning of my career, I was a traditional grader.  I was taught in college how to assign points, grade behaviors, and was encouraged to have a “no tolerance” approach to late work.  I followed these practices and maintained the status quo in the educational world.  My students learned information, but did they excel?  No, they maintained the status quo in a system based on one-size-fits-all standardized instruction and assessment.  Every student was to be treated equally to be fair.

After 10 years of teaching, I needed a paradigm shift.  I recognized my students as individuals who had varying needs in the classroom.  Being fair to my students meant that I needed to understand them as learners and people, and that they require a variety of instructional methods, assessments, and practice. I reflected, read, and evaluated my methods. Relationships and trust were established, and a learning environment conducive to growth was created.  A reflection on my grading practices naturally followed. Why was I still demanding points, due dates, and compliant behaviors in my grading policies? In my current standards-based classroom, students exceed my expectations on a daily basis. They are learners first and foremost who seek knowledge, understanding, and new skills over points and grades.

Read Garnet Hillman's full series From the Trenches:

  1. A Teacher's Journey of Positive Deviance
  2. Culture Shock Ahead for Standards Based Education
  3. Separating Student Behavior in Standards Based Learning
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