Whajagit?

Whajagit? This is the title of a book about giving grades to students. The writer noted that kids, when tests are handed back, use this question with fellow students, “Hey, Nate, whajagit?” It’s still a practice in school, and at home, where parents ask at major marking times, “Whajagit?” The students who ask it the most are the ones who almost always get good grades. They ask it of students with whom they compete. An A feels even better if the respondent says, “A-.”

As the school year winds down, it’s time for others in the school to ask, “Whajagit?”

Teachers should ask themselves, To what degree did my students achieve the goals of the school, particularly at my grade level or my subject area? For example, how well did each of my students in language arts class learn that God’s children (from age three to old age) are to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) and “use language that is helpful for building others up” (Ephesians 4:29)? If the principal asks each teacher, “Whajagit?” meaning, “Considering our school goals, how close to that standard did your students get this year?” it’s not to see who is better than another. It’s gathering evidence for the meeting when the board asks the school leader, “Whajagit?”

The principal’s test from the board regarding education accomplishment is more-than-occasionally vague, with most of the questions related to the job description lines on management: facilities, finances, school enrollment, relationships with people he/she supervises, and board. For example, “Whajagit on keeping our school in the black?” Or, “How much has our donor list expanded or shrunk?” For education outcomes, the board’s question may only be, “Are we on track academically?” Or “How many graduates received college scholarships?” All of these answers may shed some light on school goals, but the “whajagit?” questions should be directly related to the school’s educational mission and goals.

Last, but most important, is for boards to ask all audiences that might be openly or secretly judging the school, “Whajagit in your child’s education? In all the students’ achievements? In graduates answering the worth of their education in further education and in profession?” Start with staff leadership; ask them (or just the head of school), “What progress has this school made to meet its mission this year?” If the leaders say, for example, “We had really good chapels this year,” ask first, “How did that help us all achieve our mission?” Then, second, “Which goal of our school does this address?” John Carver, the guru on non-profit boards, says non-profits can “give allegiance to services and programs as if they were results.” What was the result in your school of your curriculum this past year? Whajagit? Carver cautions that “righteous busyness” in itself does not answer the question.

The board needs to expand the audiences to help them judge, for the whole school, Whajagit? Do you survey your society or association regularly with questions about their judgments about students’ progress in school? Do you survey graduates (k–8 graduates on to a different school, college students, 10-year or 25-year reunion invitees)? If one of your goals, for example, is that graduates will see their vocation as service to the Lord, do you see the percentage of graduates saying yes to this goal decreasing or increasing over time? A good board analyzes these results to determine the answer.

Sometimes we don’t measure because we can’t be exact. How can you quantify one child’s growth in faith in God and matching actions? Carver says it is better to have an imprecise measure of what the school values the most than a precise measure of minutiae. I end with a note a mother of first-grader Chuck sent to her son’s teachers recently. This evidence of achieving the school’s mission is hard to tally; it does, however, answer “Whajagit?” precisely.

Recently my boys have been bickering a ton. One of their fights has been about Nolan not letting Chuck read his stack of new birthday books until after Nolan finishes reading them. Just a few minutes ago, as I was putting the boys to bed, Nolan kindly said out of nowhere, “Chuck, you can read my chapter books now.” It was so different from the norm that I asked Nolan, “Where did that come from?” He told me about the Bible story he learned today about the poor woman giving what she had and what the class has been learning about sharing. He quoted the memory verse and made connections that we receive back from God what we give away.

I’m now completely in tears that God has made a way for my children to be in Christian education, learning about the Bible in class and directly applying it to their lives! I’m so grateful Nolan is in your class learning how to follow God! THANK YOU for all you do to build into Nolan and to teach him direct application from Bible stories. It is making a difference, and there is direct fruit from all of the teaching you are doing!

– Dan Vander Ark

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One Response to Whajagit?

  1. Dan,
    Great thoughts here. Thank you so much for putting this together. I think this “whajagit” mentality derails our young for the future. We are basically training people early on to strive for success in the eyes of the world. As parents, as teachers, as pastors, we are sending the wrong message about what life is supposed to be. I would make this strong contention that “whajagit” in normal education should be secondary in priority after the first priorities of putting the kingdom first. How do you think this mentality ties into where students look into going to college? I would love to hear your thoughts on how higher education could reframe what college is about, but it must start even before college.

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