This Is Why We Do Portfolios

Mushroom hard at work.
Mushroom hard at work.

I often think of portfolios as being for me. Technically, I suppose, they’re for the threat of the state, but honestly, I taught in schools that used portfolio assessments and I came to believe in them strongly, which is why I would do them even if I wasn’t supposed to keep records of our education (which, by the way, are never checked).

I have an older post about how we do portfolios here. It’s probably due for an upgrade, but things are basically still the same. We toss everything into a box until portfolio time. Then we go through it and the kids choose their best work from all the art, worksheets, dictations, math workbook pages, projects, and so forth. They write a short self-assessment, I write an assessment, and then it all goes in the portfolio in plastic sleeves, which makes it look super neat and pretty.

Every time I do it, it’s a huge boost for me as a teacher. Homeschooling can be lonely, as they say. You don’t get feedback about how you’re doing and it’s easy to lose sight of how things are going. It’s hard to feel like you’re getting anywhere. Putting together the portfolio, with the list of all the books we read, field trips we took, and all those examples of work is such a huge boost. You can see the progress and it’s very gratifying for me as a teacher.

For the last few weeks, Mushroom’s anxiety levels have been up. He’s had trouble finishing up his work for the school year simply because he’s been so keyed up with worries about everything and nothing. The moment he started to go through his work, he lit up with joy. By the time he had compiled all his examples, he was glowing. Seeing all the work he did over the summer was a huge boost to his self-confidence.

I’m reminded how important it is to celebrate our kids’ work and how it doesn’t have to be done with anything but a figurative mirror. Having the time and space to pause and see what he had done was a great experience for him.

One thought on “This Is Why We Do Portfolios

  1. Doing portfolios reminds me of the line in the movie cars when Sally lamented over the construction of super highways, comparing them to roadways like Route 66. She said, “Forty years ago, that interstate down there didn’t exist…Well, the road didn’t cut through the land like that interstate. It moved with the land, it rose, it fell, it curved. Cars didn’t drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.” I think portfolios give us an opportunity to revisit what we’ve done, the ups, downs, twists, turns, ‘the great time’. Your post shows us this. Thanks Farrar.

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