Friday, October 21, 2011

How Are You Doing?

In teaching I use a lot of rubrics - you know, a checklist of skills or expectations, so I can tell how well my students are performing. It's beyond a traditional grade. Rubrics enable students to understand the subtle differences between performance that is "good, better, and best" and take responsibility for their own learning.

If you're a parent, then you are probably already acquainted with the rubric. In fact, you may even come to expect them from teachers and get a little itchy if you don't see one accompanying a project, paper, or complex assignment.

"How is she going to grade this?" you wonder. "How are we supposed to know what makes a good paper if she doesn't tell us? And what's the difference between a good paper and a great one?"

Sometimes there's very little difference and at other times it may be oceans apart. But you don't know unless someone sets the expectations, right?

I started to wonder if a rubric might help me better assess my quality of life. A friend, from whom I haven't heard from in a long while, wrote today and asked, "How are you doing?" Sounded like a simple question, but it wasn't. It was and continues to be a very complex question for me. If I answered, "Good," what would that really convey to her? Would she detect the subtle nuances that make up the answer, "Great!"?

If you had to answer the question "How are you doing?" right now, what would constitute an answer of GOOD, BETTER, or BEST?

Can you construct conditions or expectations that would frame "Good"? How about "Better"? And finally, "Best"? It's not so easy to do, but I'll try.

"Vicki, how are you doing?"

I'm GOOD (code for... nothing has changed; status quo; the problems I have I still have)

I'm BETTER (code or more of what ails me has improved; beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, but hoping it's not just an oncoming train!)

I'm BEST (code for... the problems/obstacles have either magically disappeared, or I've decided to make them unimportant; I'm smiling because I choose to smile)

Your rubric to answer this question may look completely different than mine. There is no standard set of expectations to answer this question. It's more complicated than that.

The idea is to observe the subtle differences between good, better, and best in yourself, your children, and others so that you can judge more fairly and with compassion.

After all, in the end, it's not the grade you get, but the progress you've made.