Thursday, May 15, 2008

Departmental Differences

Yesterday, we skipped seventh period to hand out academic awards. The school left it entirely up to teachers to do their own awards, though they did provide stationary to use for certificates.

The math department gave a couple of students to the top students. (I gave awards for "Most Concepts Mastered" and "Most Persistent.") The English department spoke about how proud they were of everybody and made sure that every student in the school received something.


H. said...

In my school too, the Math department handed out two awards per course, while the English department handed out... lots and lots. And I'm wondering, does this reflect deep differences in personality and priorities among teachers of different disciplines? And I'm wondering, might the fact that students often HATE math but rarely express feelings of similar intensity about English have anything to do with it? Not per se with the number of awards, I guess, but with underlying differences in priorities? I don't know, the question just struck me when reading your entry.

Sarah Cannon said...

In conversations with people, I haven't found anyone who's surprised by the set-up. The differences are ones that we expect.

How much do the differences in personality and priorities come from the fields themselves (left, vs right brain) and how much do we put them there? Why is it that I feel compelled to just recognize a few students while my housemate want to reward all of them? I want my award to mean something, but I'm beginning to wonder of meaning "less" in the immediate present means "more" year-round.

Sarah Cannon said...

My housemate also points out that English gets the reputation for being wishy-washy because it's harder to assess. I'm reasonably certain that my best Algebra student would still be my best Algebra student if you, or anyone else, came and assessed them.

English has more uncertainty. Writing styles vary. Interpretations of readings differ. English teachers can have the same kind of confidence that math teachers do.

My college required that you turn in a writing portfolio at the end of sophomore year. They were graded over the summer, each portfolio read by one professor. If they thought you should fail or receive honors there was a second reader. I had two readers. One gave me low scores. One gave me high scores. In my case, they just passed me.

Point being, if there was such variety between professors who had agreed to go through and grade papers (that had already passed the classes for which they were written), how much more variety do other departments face in daily grading?