View Full Version : Grading Forms for Parents/Teachers
I had heard about these things but had not encountered one until this past week...
In addition to being an assistant instructor at my MA school, I am also a brand-new elementary school teacher (grades five and six). One of my grade five students brought me a form from his TKD dojang. There was a section for his parents/guardians to fill out, describing his attitude at home, the extent to which he practiced, etc.
There was also a section for me to fill out as his school teacher, in which I was to comment on his attitude and behaviour at school. In this boy's case, it was a no-brainer -- this kid is wonderful student, hard-working, good attitude, etc.
In making my comments, I noted that I was also an MA student and instructor, and, based upon my observations of him in the classroom, I couldn't think of any reason not to enthusiastically recommend his grading to the next rank.
But I also had a problem with it. My dojo has no such form sent to home or school. We have taught and graded many kids that we know are not "model" students at school -- they have behavioural problems, learning differences, etc. They earn the right to grade based upon continued performance in the dojo. Period.
If we hear of a problem with fighting/bullying at school, which is rare, one of our Sensei talks with the child and his/her parents/guardians, and a determination is made as to whether the child should continue training with us. Period.
At the same time, as many of you know, many teachers/schools/school boards are apprehensive about some or all children participating in the martial arts because of school policies regarding violence.
Here are my questions...
Is it reasonable for a martial arts school to inquire about the private lives of students (including children)?
Is it reasonable or fair to ask school teachers to comment on children's readiness to grade?
I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Still curious? Any thoughts?
I don't think asking school teachers about a student is appropriate because quite frankly, they see more kids go through there fingers in a year than any MA teacher and cannot accurately evaluate that student. (Only if the student is a troublemaker would the teacher say anything. Otherwise the student wouldn't stand out.) Also, teachers are great people, but how can a english/math/C.S. /etc. teacher give meaningful feedback unless they have a MA background themselves?
If the student is young, inquires should be done with the parents or relatives. Preferably confidential.
I do think student's academic grades should somewhat be taken into account. Too many fall through the educational cracks and incentives (rank testing) are a good way to keep their grades high and future opportunities open. I’m sure parents wouldn’t mind that at all.
Personally I don't beleive that MA schools should be sending forms to the kids school teachers to fill out or enquiring about their school life at all . I feel that school academics should not have any role in Martial Arts Gradings. If a child is a slow learner at school he/she already feels bad enough about this without getting it rubbed in their face at their Martial Arts school. One Karate club my son used to belong to made all of its student write a 30 page essay as part of their 1st Dan Grading. I just don't feel that is fair. A student could work really hard at Martial Arts but because they are not academic then they will be held back. As you can probably guess I was not very academic myself while at school !
Thanks, sietchring and Ishinguy:
I enjoyed your feedback. I guess we're pretty much on the same page. My two Sensei always tell the kids that school comes first, and that if they're parents pull the plug on MA because of poor grades, etc., it's their call, not Sensei's.
Any comments in defense of sending these forms to home and school?
Sensei always tell the kids that school comes first
Thta's the way is was for me:up:
It's nice to know they want what's best for you.
To play the Devil's Advocate,
Sending those forms out does give a broader perspective into the student's lifestyle and their overall state of being. Also if a MA teacher sees someone they feel would be worth investing a significant amount of time and effort into beyond the teaching standard, perhaps they have a right to know who they are dealing with and to be updated periodically on how they are doing outside the dojang?
I haven't heard of this, but my initial impression is that it is a good idea. I guess I get to be the first to defend it.
Not all, but many martial arts teach that it is a lifestyle, not a hobby. In this context it could be a very good tool to learn if the child is taking the dojo lessons of courtesy, honor and humility and living up to them in his regular environment.
Please keep in mind that I don't teach children. My friends that do say that the parents expect them to instill moral qualities more than martial ones. If this is the expectation and the sensei accepts this, then encouraging the child to contact people in other areas of his or her life and ask teachers and parents for constructive criticism might be very beneficial.
I think the teacher could get all the info he/she needs from the parent or guardian. I think the biigeest benefit for the MA teacher is some hidden intention marketing.
If I have a child get into a fight or fights at school and I feel it maybe a bad situation I will talk to the parents and if I want to talk to the school (teacher ,counciler)I ask for the parents permission.
Hey Jeff, Rory, and sietchring:
Thanks for the feedback. I don't want to give the impression that I'm dead-set against these forms -- if a martial arts instructor feels its a useful part of her/his program, so be it. I'm more curious than anything else. Remember, I now wear two hats: as an elementary school teacher, and (now-very-part-time) assistant MA instructor.
I think the teacher could get all the info he/she needs from the parent or guardian. I think the biggest benefit for the MA teacher is some hidden intention marketing.
I'm inclined to agree with the former. I hadn't even thought of your second comment; however, a school teacher might -- in the absense of any MA knowledge or information about local dojo/dojang -- be inclined to promote a school that s/he had heard about through these forms.
Rory and sietchring, I think you raise a good point about the commitment of the instructor to his or her art as more than block-punch-kick, but a system of values. I also think it's great if the school teacher, MA instructor, or coach, etc., makes an effort to see the child in a broader context. To this end, I attended my student's blue belt grading in TKD this evening -- his dojang is only a few minutes from my home.
Let me put on my school teacher's hat for a second... I have one caveat about these forms going to the school. The section of the form I filled out was fairly general, as were my comments. I didn't say if this boy was an "A" or a "D" student, for instance. I report grades only to parents/guardians and school officials. The same is true of specific behavioural patterns. (If parents/guardians want to share this information with others, that is their choice.) So, as long as the forms are general, I don't have a problem from this end. However, I would hate to think a child might be penalized in the dojo because his/her teacher felt ethically compromised because such a form seemed to cross lines of confidentiality, etc.
Thanks to all for comments thus far. I'm seeing differents facets to this.
I tend to favor the use of grading forms. Many of my students are from single family homes and I get a good deal of positive feedback for involvement in the children's lives. Personally, I think it's a sad commentary on our society, but I also recognize that most of these kids have very few positive male role models.
The kids in my program know that I have "spies" in the schools :) The idea here is to be sure the kids behavior away from my observation is still influenced by me. I've had a couple cases where kids were misusing their skills in school and wouldn't have known about it if not for my relationship with an administrator in the school.
On the other hand, I don't favor using academic grades as a go-no go standard for a child's testing. I have a number of special needs kids in the program; Downs Syndrome, FAS and ADD, so I recognize that my standards need to adjust to each student.
All this to say, I like the idea of a response form that speaks more to a childs attitude, rather than academic achievement.
Food for thought.
Ooooh yeah...I got spies
I'm fourteen, and I have to get one filled up for every test.
We don't use such forms in my school, but our head instructor does require that students bring in there report cards, and students under 18 must fill out a job list and have there parents sign it every week. If you have a 2.51 gpa you get a silver star for your Gi, and a 3.51 get's you an accidemic achever patch. Parent's are, however, encouraged to put comments on the job list.
GRADING FORMS- SHOULD NOT BE USED UNLESS THE CHILD IS MEAN OR HAS A SEVERE BEHAVIOR PROBLEM.LET THE KIDS BE!
THEY HAVE ENOUGH PROBLEMS GROWING UP. Pardon my shouting.I teach kids Judo and two are National Champions and their parents are welcome to come and visit class --and most certainly do frequently. They are concerned about their children's welfare.
At the Kodokan if a person is mean they do not want him or her in Judo. Send them elsewhere until the meaness stops forever.
One can lose their Kodokan belt, even if it is a black belt, for demonstrated meaness proven beyond a reasonable doubt.This is a firm rule and has been there since the formation of the Kodokan by Jigoro Kano.
Martial arts and Judo is to train the mind and Judo is a sport which can not tolerate the mean person. In no time flat the children learn discipline and etiquette in the formal dojo setting. No horseplay, clean feet , clean uniform, etiquette, mutual welfare, philosophy, fitness,sportsmanship, follow the rules of the sport etc. It starts with etiquette and ends with etiquette. Grade the teachers not the students. If you ask me it is backwards to grade except for testingby the Sensei-teacher.
Heisei --peace in the world is what WE ALL NEED .
Nichijo Kore Dojo
My initial response is that it's good for the kids to see that many people work together and care about their well-being. IF this is done CONSTRUCTIVELY, it can be a great tool to 1) keep kids out of trouble before the fact, 2) let kids really know that many people care about them and their well-being, giving them a feeling of value and worth. Too many time, I think, kids are left to their own devices and as a result do not feel as cared for as if real interest was shown in them, collectively and cooperatively, by the various adults in their lives who are responsible for different aspects of their development.
I wouldn't say it's necessary in all cases, but in cases where there may be some element of risk (such as the student getting into trouble, being exposed to bad influences, not enough supervision, etc...) then it could be a good thing.
IMO, sending the forms out is a little over-the-top. I agree that most information that you need about students can be gotten from parents/guardians. But I can think of two reasons that it makes sense to use such forms. First, children are not stupid. They learn what behaviour is acceptable and at what times, and they can do this quickly. Parents and guardians may not be privy to everything going on in the students life...even though they may think they are. (case in point: has anyone seen stats on the avg. age of first sexual encounters these days? Mom and Dad would not be happy.)
Second, (for me anyway) students are a reflection of the instructor. If an instructor's students are causing problems (regardless of age), it's not just hurting the student...it's doing harm to the instructor as well. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that the use of comment forms is just to make the instructor look pretty and keep a good reputation. I'm saying that they allow the instructor to find out how the student interacts with those around them and can use that knowledge to further help the students.
All that said, the school that I train at doesn't use these...but they do encourage good work at school.
I declined on responding to this for a long time, because I truly didn't care. If it wants grades, that's wrong. Bad grades shouldn't keep a kid from advancing. However, improving grades should be acknowledged. Some parents now just don't make it important for their kids to have good grades. For kids to learn to take pride in their schoolwork isn't a bad thing. I think in my dojang the kids are now required to bring in their report cards. Nobody is kept back because of their grades though.
Now, if it is inquiring as to their attitude, that's important also. A child who is beating up classmates on the playground shouldn't be allowed to advance. All the same, a child who is doing something very well should be acknowledged for that.
We use the forms at our school. We look at them more as a community building tool. Our children usually deal with three very important authority figures, their parents, their teachers, and their instructor. We feel we should include the teacher as part of this community for the betterment of the child. We hope that all three parties will help reinforce the same lessons of self discipline, cooperation, and respect. if used properly, the child feels the support and encouragement of this circle of important people in his life.
We ask about behavior, helpfulness, and homework. We have the teacher circle Agree or Disagree. The parents also do the same in regards to practice, helpfulness, and chores.
The parents love it because it gives them an opportunity to remind their children of the lessons on discipline, respect and service that they learned in our school.
The beginning of our letter explains what we want to accomplish as a community for the student. We just teachers to become part of that.
West Michigan Budokan (http://wmbudokan.com) where my son Skajler takes Ninjutsu also sends a form to be endorsed by both parents and teacher prior to testing.
Their expectation is that the values of courtesy and respect upheld by the dojo are to be maintained as well outside its walls. It is reasonable they should want know whether the student makes proper or improper use of his/her current MA skills as a condition of testing for higher rank, also that the MA program is pursued in a harmonious ballance with other responsibilities such as homework, chores, etc. These are marks of personal maturity which are not easy to observe in the controlled environs of the dojo but which Sensei feels equally important. I rather applaud that attitude.
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