Thursday, May 6, 2010

Laughing though my tears

My husband is a huge Sting fan, and I sometimes think he believes there is a Sting lyrics for everything. Laughing through my tears (from I'm so happy, I can't stop crying, which is actually about divorce) was exactly what I did when a former student of mine named Jennifer sent me this rubric for competencies in humour this morning. I followed the links and realized that Microsoft has a rubric for virtually ever possible work place competence, including ones that are diametrically opposed to each other (check out ambiguity and priority setting).

I am all about student and teacher competence, but I don't think Microsoft and I mean the same thing. As I look at the rubrics (an oft overused educational tool), I began laughing. I think I may have slid just a tad into hysterical. Here are my three salt-encrusted reasons:
  1. A rubric is designed to be a series of steps, and each step is supposed to describe what specific things you need to do to improve. These rubrics don't do that, they are just metrics for describing what you aren't doing. Classic and ironic, given what they are designed to promote.
  2. Who thinks you can evaluate humour on a rubric? I know we are geeks in the computer community, but could we deviate a little from the worst stereotypes about us?
  3. When you are actually competent, rubrics are useless to you, because you understand something with more depth and complexity than can be expressed in a rubric. Ah, the irony of measuring competence in a way that shouts that you don't have it.

Jennifer's email was entitled "I can't stop laughing" and she writes ironically that "apparently there are rubrics for everything." Thanks for helping me take competence/measured acceptability and evidence a little less seriously just before starting my work day, Jennifer. I think all educators could use that, and if they couldn't, there is always this rubric to measure their lack of competence .


  1. Wendy,

    I was at a camp once and it was suggested to me that I have a "cabin clean-up rubric" for the kids at the end of the camp. I think this is a wonderful example of irrelevance, disengagement, and impotency. We don't have to evaluate everything.
    At the IT Summit, the first speaker talked about rigor in multimedia presentations. Somehow it was lost on her that if one of my kids uses skype for the first time in my class that this is remarkable and transforming for that child and for my classroom.

    Tim Comfort

  2. I've been feeling fragile lately. I think it's all this heavy cloud, no rain. There really is nothing like the sun to improve my mood.

    With rubrics, you may be able to have too much of a good thing. But, when it comes to Sting lyrics you should really just let your soul be your pilot.