Monday, March 25, 2013
Recently a student sliced about grades and how long some teachers take to update grades in our computer system: Progress Book. I found myself leaving the student a long comment and then decided to just blog my thinking.
I want to tell this students that he is absolutely right. Grades matter. Grades matter to students. Grades matter to parents. Grades matter to most colleges. They might even matter to most teachers. If grades are not updated regularly students may have a false sense of poor (or stellar) performance.
I am guilty of sometimes taking two weeks to transfer grades from my clipboard to the computer. Why does it take so long to get grades entered?
Grading is my least favorite part of teaching. Perhaps grades do not matter to me much. I love reading student work. I love talking to students about their work. I enjoy assessing where students are and designing a lesson to bring them further in terms of writing or reading skill. I do not love putting a number or a value on student work. I do not love reducing the richness of a student's performance to a letter grade. I do it though. It takes time, also, because when I do it, I want it to be accurate.
We make time for what we enjoy, for what we value. So much of my teaching time goes to other things: Poetry Club, lesson planning, department meeting, and more. Some meetings I am required to attend, some I am required to lead, others I do by choice. Poetry Club is one of those. It is an hour or two a week (depending on where we are in the slam season). That hour or two may not sound like much time, but think about a teacher's schedule.
We all spend time outside of the duty day working. We plan. We collect. We grade. We write. We connect. All goes toward the work we do in front of students. A lot happens behind the classroom scene.
At my school, our work day begins at 7 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m. Every teacher also gets a 45 minute planning period, or 47, I don't have the exact number of minutes clear in my mind, but we get one class period. On Wednesdays the class period is shorter by about ten minutes. We also have 19 minutes of common planning time after school. Rarely do I use that time to meet with colleagues and plan. Sometimes we meet then to plan a meeting or create a plan for a course we have in common, but that generally takes more than the 19 minutes we're allotted. Here's how a recent week went in terms of time.
I did grade. I responded to a set of reviews I'd been carrying around. I did that the Saturday not pictured and finished Monday evening. I also recorded students' blog posts--check marks in columns by date and number. I fought against the checking as I did it, but I know that I need to know who is not posting, who might need additional help, who is hit or miss. I read and commented on many Slice of Life posts Wednesday evening while having dinner at my parents' house. This Saturday morning (actually two weeks ago once this posts) I'm at it again and hoping to actually get the grades from my paper roster into the computer program that students and parents see.
I've got to be alone and able to focus in order to evaluate and grade. Finding alone-time at school is nearly impossible. Making it happen at home, with a family, feels unfair. Grading and posting grades takes time away from doing the work that matters more to me. Helping students and teachers, in person, in the moment and beyond, that's what I really want to do with my time. Time is terrible, no matter how you slice it, for everyone.