More on Portfolios

Both of our daughter’s teachers (K & 1) have kept portfolios of her work. They used them in parent-teacher conferences to demonstrate her capabilities and her growth. In addition, we got the portfolio at the end of kindergarten and expect the 1st grade portfolio at the end of this year. They are great tools in this regard. It makes the connection of parents-teacher-child very tangible and softens the conversations. I’d imagine in the event that there were issues to be discussed having tangible examples of those issues would be helpful as well. And they make great keepsakes when they finally come home!

The one thing I have observed as a parent that might need some scrutiny is the possibility that the Childrens’ portfolios become more about the teacher’s ego. This hasn’t happened to us, but I have seen and heard of times where the Childrens’ work becomes a validation of the teacher rather than the children. This can take a number of forms. One might be an over-emphasis of creating work to ‘show off’ as opposed to work to experiment and learn from. Connected to this might be setting too narrow a band of allowable creativity or quality. If the child is simply expected to replicate an example piece of art, much of the joy and learning depart. That’s not to say duplicating and following instructions doesn’t have its place, but only in exercises intended to be that way. Otherwise, I believe there should be a lot more room for kids to experiment and discover their own limits. Then there is the density of work product. Even eating ice cream can get tedious in excess. Finally, it may be that children can sense the teacher’s motivation and might come to associate certain projects or endeavors with gratifying another person rather than something to be done for the joy or learning of it. I’m not suggesting this happens often, but we all try to find satisfaction where we can. My plan when I teach is to make sure the kids are the stars!

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