Grading Papers on Christmas Day
After the presents were opened on Christmas morning, I pondered the thought of taking a nap or watching a holiday movie. What I opted to do instead was to tackle some schoolwork. I opened my bookbag and pulled out a stack of papers that kids had turned in. I didn’t have a lot of class work to grade but as I move to understanding more about standards-based grading (SBG), I sat and looked at this stack and wondered, “Why in the world am I doing this?” Now you’re probably wondering why I would opt to do this on Christmas day but I was looking at a broader reason:
“Why am I doing this at all? “
Most of what was in this stack of papers was (home)work that students completed in class. It was work they checked themselves after they reworked problems. Most of these grades were A’s and students put a score at the top of the papers and then turn them in. I then record these scores in the gradebook. This process does take quite a bit of time to complete but I feel (or I did feel) that it is important to record these scores. Remember that these aren’t assignments that students do once and then turn in graded but it is classwork students have corrected. They have already fixed their errors. So really what was the purpose of recording the scores? Somehow in my mind I have this reoccurring thought that if I don’t record the scores my classroom is going to implode and my students will learn nothing.
“How do I determine what to record?”
I am determined to change. So I looked over the work turned in and simply looked over the papers and recorded nothing. I put the organized papers back into my file folder and back into my backpack. While I definitely haven’t graded or recorded everything students turned in, this was the first time where two or three consecutive days of work was not recorded. I felt like I was cheating. I felt lazy. I felt like I was failing the kids.
“Would parents think that we did nothing on those days?”
I was determined to change and this was the first step. What was my biggest enemy? Simply put it was me. We are so ingrained to follow the footsteps of how we learned and how we were graded. We follow what we are familiar with. I have always felt like I am an innovator and thinker but why is of all things I feel the most resistance within myself to change is grading/recording student work – which ironically is one of the more time-consuming, daunting procedures we as teachers dread. Why do we feel that we must do it?
As I stated earlier, in front of me was a stack of class work. What I didn’t tell you was the rest of the story. Also in front of me were assessments that students turned in over the material that the class work covered and like a ton of bricks it hit me (actually rather than bricks I saw my colleague, an SBG instructional coach, slap me across the face). Why, if I graded the assessments that covered mastery, does it even matter what they got on the classwork. SBG is all about an end goal or result in mastery so if students reached that goal, why am I wasting my time recording the grades leading up to that?
“What was I thinking?”
So at that moment, I made the decision that my goal for the rest of the year was to not record as much work. Let the work lead up to the end result of mastery and then assess that instead. It was a novel idea and one I honestly already knew in the back of my mind but I just couldn’t break the chain. Leading into the new year my underlying goal is determination. I am determined to change the things that are ingrained in me the most…all of which have to do with grading and recording.
To my readers, what are your biggest challenges regarding grading/recording and SBG? Any tips?