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  • Writer's pictureMegan Yoshino

Quality versus Quantity- What Values Do Your Actions Teach?

My kiddo came in one session totally defeated. His ninth grade Social Studies teacher assigned a book report assignment with a 2 page list of book titles that he could choose from. The catch? That teacher later told the students that those who chose a book that had over 1,000 pages didn’t have to complete the book report. Those whose books had less than 1,000 pages had to complete the book report.

Shocked? Shaking your head?

My student vented and shared this story with me while pulling out his book, The Book Thief. That book is an amazing book. Amazing is an understatement. But, what overshadowed this beautiful story, was the injustice of the assignment.

This event was a repeat of what we had encountered when he was in fifth grade. His teacher had a rule that no one could get an A for the quarter unless they read an additional 800 pages a quarter and wrote the summary (complete with “In the beginning," "middle" and "end” transitions) on these little sheets of paper. What left us baffled was that if the teacher didn’t read their book, how was she determining if what they wrote was correct? My student complained that he had friends who admitted that they never read the book, but were good at faking their summaries and managed to receive that A grade every quarter. It made him upset because he’s not a fast reader and struggles with sometimes slipping into “fake reading”- reading just to read. He’s also not okay with deceiving and lying. He knows this.

However, he was ineligible for an A the whole year because he couldn’t read as fast, well, or as “fake” as some of his classmates.

That assignment in fifth grade is what started us down that slippery slope of fast “fake reading” in the first place. The goal was to finish the most number of pages, then subsequently brag about it to others, as many of his classmates tended to do. He didn’t learn to check for understanding, ask himself questions, reread, make inferences or make any meaning. He was taught that quantity was the goal. What a poor teaching strategy when quality is what was wanted and expected.

This second time around, my students instantly recognized the fallacy here and thought to himself, “Quality or quantity, Mr. So-and-so?” The worst part of the assignment was that it was assigned before Spring Break with presentations to begin the week after they returned, so essentially the kids had no break. Well, the ones who "read" over 1,000 pages had a break. The rest of the kids worked over break.

It's times like these where I question, "What are you assessing? Quality or quantity?"

This doesn’t just pertain to teachers either. In our professions, the only data that is tracked across the board is profit. Quality or quantity? I’m guilty of it too in my business. I’m sure in our adulthood we have said at one time or another, “Stuff nowadays is built so cheap; it breaks so quickly,” in reference to that stapler, pencil sharpener, car, laptop, rice cooker, and the list goes on.

So is this a case of kids learning from us quantity over quality? Perhaps.

What are you teaching through your behaviors? Quantity or quality?

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