METP Canada 2017!!! travel blog

Robert Thirsk High School

"The Space" where students hang out.

Walking down the hall.

One of my amazingly smart colleagues talking about his creative writing.

Teachers write quotes on their doors.

The grading scale at RTHS.

Saltlik Steakhouse

The absolute best meal I've had here. Melt in your mouth good!

Today was the day for our visit to Robert Thirsk High School where the senior METP group went last year. This high school is also under the new redesign and is actually the high school that Nelson Mandela High School. was based off of. Therefore, there are many similarities in the two; RTHS is just a little older. At RTHS though, there was a lot more talk about assessment of students and how marks (grades) are determined/reported. I’m going to be honest here, the grading completely confuses me even after intently trying to understand the logic behind it. My understanding, which may be completely off, is that students are given an assignment, but is he/she does not feel confident in their ability to complete the assignment, they can quite literally pick any other medium or form to turn in the work as long as the work meets the outcomes and competencies required. Therefore, let’s say I want to assign a research paper, but Susie Q wants to do a poster, and Billy Bob wants to do a movie. They can have that choice, meaning as a teacher, I will have three very different products to grade to see if the students met the competencies and outcomes asked of them. To me, this is completely hectic and not at all conducive for objective evaluation of a student’s performance because there is not enough comparison. While yes, it is true that each student is very different from the next, I believe that too much choice can be a hindrance.

Also, it was explained that, for instance, if a student takes quizzes and tests throughout the semester and does not do well on the assessments throughout the semester but does well on the final, formal assessments, that all the poor grades on each outcome are not counted. The logic behind this idea is that a students end of the year mark should be reflective of the progress that they have made in the course. My argument here is that if the end of the year grade is an average of the work done by a student, and they consistently do better throughout the year then their grade will be reflective of their progress. Therefore, why drop so many previous grades like those never happened? One of my colleagues said it best when he said, “A student should experience failure if they do not put forth the effort throughout the semester,” and I believe this is true as well. Again, like I said, the grading is completely chaotic to me and is something that I don’t think I could ever get on board with.

After a long day of trying to make sense of the school’s structure, a big group and myself went to this restaurant that many of us had been eyeing since we arrived in Calgary called Saltlik. We had been told that Calgary is “the Texas of Canada” and that we needed to have at least one steak dinner before we left the country, so tonight was the night. Let me tell you, BEST STEAK I HAVE EVER HAD, and I usually do not like steak all that much. I had a filet mignon with a shrimp skewer and lobster mashed potatoes, and everything just melted in my mouth. It was totally worth the painful bill in the end, trust me!

Tomorrow, we go back to the same high school, so I pray that I can try and make more sense about what exactly they are doing at that school.

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