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I’m more specific with students about their work. The assignment sheets, unit calendars, grading rubrics, student and professional models, and daily content and language objectives all help students get better grades. They also make grading easier and more consistent.  But I have reservations. I taught in an affluent community for eleven years, and the pressure to defend and quantify every grade developed in me resentment toward the point-mongering that rubrics encourage, and weariness with the “breaking down” of the creative process into manageable, grade-able units. The specificity in my teaching became a crutch that kept students from thinking for themselves and made them panic whenever they saw ambiguity in the world.

Now, I find that my ability to give clear directions and break down tasks into manageable, grade-able units is really useful. For four years I’ve taught African refugee students in a charter school, and my students, many of whom are forced to think for themselves due to the death of, or separation, from parents, are already independent. Having missed several years of schooling, they count on me to clarify ambiguities for them and to show them the kind of work they need to do in order to survive in college.

Heather Megarry Traeger
Ubah Medical Academy 
Minneapolis, Minnesota
15 years of teaching

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