Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Grades, Grades, Grades

I finished compiling my first quarter grades at 3:30 PM today. I wish I could say I am relieved. Instead, I am facing six or seven other things I need to do immediately that have been let go in all the last minute grading and calculating. I already have three new sets of papers waiting for me for the two-day old second quarter. Add to that the dozens of students who are beseeching me for their quarter grades.

It is amazing to me that some of these people I barely see in my classes. They have shown no interest in coming to my office hours during the last nine weeks. They take little interest in class. They barely mumble a hello when they enter my classroom. Yet, two days after the quarter ends, they come to see me three separate times outside of the class meeting to ask if I have the quarter grades prepared. And they are worried. Why were they not worried during the nine weeks of the quarter?

Many of these students want to use my class to balance their overall grade point average when they have blown their grades in other classes. Therefore, they argue and beg for the B+ instead of the B- to counter the D they received in math. I told several of them today that my class is not the great equalizer.

I also warn them that I do not award grades. I simply write down the grade they have earned. Inevitably, they thank me when they hear the grade. They should thank themselves.

This quarter marked the first time my school has used the Blackbaud software program for school management. This program allows us to keep all student records in a single database. Therefore, we can enter our grades directly into the system from our desktop computers in the classroom instead of writing the grades onto grade sheets and submitting them to the registrar for her to input into the computer. There were several glitches, as could be expected. At one point today, all the grades entered so far were erased, so anyone who logged on yesterday, or last week, had to reenter all that material one more time. Any time new software is piloted, there are problems. It cannot be avoided.

In the middle of all of this grading, I had to teach five classes, and accompany my students to an anti-bullying assembly that could have been a cure for insomnia. The presenter was a magician, former engineer with a headphone microphone and an amateur comedian’s timing whose basic message was “Don’t bully,” or maybe “Just say no to bullying.” The students were restless and the whole thing made me sleepy. I do not think it will be a successful deterrent against bullying. These kinds of assemblies rarely are all that effective.

So tonight I am trying to get caught up on my reading and planning for teaching. Tomorrow, it is back to the grind of grading the three new sets of papers and pushing the students forward in the curriculum. Oh, and we have a department meeting at lunch. Will the fun never end? That is the thing with teaching. The job continues on and on; I can never finish with grading papers, finally and completely. Only when I retire, I guess.

Meanwhile, we are all looking forward to the three-day weekend. The time change and a slightly cooler temperature have made everyone, students and teachers, feel the fatigue more. It is a struggle to stay focused in class for all of us. I started on part of Dante’s Inferno today in class and wound up discussing the screenwriters’ strike. I do not know how I went from point A to B, except that Dante is a cinematic writer. Go figure.

Hopefully, we can all find the strength to carry on the life of the mind and assault the ever-more dangerous learning curve. I hear for Christmas, we are all getting As.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Martin,
The article was great. It gave us students the view of school through the perspective of a teacher, one we almost never see. The use of humor made it fun to read.

Andrew A

Paul L. Martin said...

Thank you, Andrew.