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04 June 2016 @ 08:51 am
Tear Down This Wall  
Many of us remember or ave seen the footage of Reagan demanding that the Berlin Wall be torn down. The dismantling of the wall was historic. And it should have reminded us for generations to come that building walls is not a great idea. Given the current political climate, apparently we are not paying attention to the divisive nature of walls. But this post is not about that type of wall. I am speaking of the things educators have done with the walls of the classroom.

For years, I used the walls of my classroom to display posters, to highlight articles from newspapers and magazines, to announce important dates and events. I was a bit of a minimalist, so I had very little on the walls. I liked the clean expanse afforded for group work, etc. I was fortunate enough that I moved to the university classroom before the advent of anchor charts and data walls. Data walls? Why did anyone elver think it would be a good idea to display data about kids and their performance?

Fortunately, the tide seems to be turning here if this piece form the Washington Post is any indication: https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/05/19/data-walls/?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory. This idea of making classrooms a place of competition where kids will be motivated to perform better when they see others are doing better than they are is anathema to me. It is the chart with stars on steroids. The kids without stars (or smiley face or anything else) are not always motivated; often they are dismayed, depressed, discouraged.

This is, in reality, a means of shaming kids.

I am all for praising good work and encouraging all kids to achieve success. I begin my semesters even in grad school letting students know that I am happy when everyone in class earns an "A" because it means I have done a good job constructing assessments that reflect their knowledge. I once had a confrontation with an administrator (years ago) over the fact that so many of my students got "As." I was told I was giving too many As. I responded that students earned grades; I did not give them. I expect a lot of work from my students (go ahead and ask them). I do not make the class a competition. I do not post data for anyone else to see (and how are data walls not the biggest violation of privacy???). I do not compare work from students.

I am not alone here. I know so many colleagues who encourage all students and who do to post these data walls. But I am still disturbed that this even exists. We need to push back against policies that harm kids. We need to speak out when we see things that are wrong for our kids. It seems that every day there is someone somewhere who is not thinking about the consequences of policies or processes. When we see these assaults on the well bring of kids, we need to call attention to them. We need to tear down those walls.
 
 
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