As a teacher, the most stressful time of each quarter is the week before grades are due. That means each quarter as we head for break I am a complete wreck. It's not because there is so much work to do; actually the work load decreases significantly as I am preparing to wrap up the term. All of the sudden, though, parents and their children care about their grades. They haven't really been worried for the eight weeks prior, but they want to know how to pull the grades up.
Out of the blue, work that has been missing for weeks is turned in. I have found a way to make that grading go quickly; students get half credit for late work. What is harder, though, is the stack of paperwork that students want me to copy. Worksheets that they lost, instructions to assignments that they don't remember, it all adds up to more work for me.
I have been telling students for two weeks that all missing assignments were due on Friday, giving me enough time to get my final grades in by our Wednesday deadline. On Thursday, the request for papers was incredible. I finally told students I just couldn't get them everything they needed. We had a nice class discussion about being proactive. I feel badly, but I'm really trying to realize that their lack of planning is not my emergency. I do the best I can to help students be successful, but I just couldn't produce everything they needed at the last minute.
Saturday afternoon I got an email from a parent that hurt me tremendously. She was upset that I "gave" her son a failing grade in social studies, even though I explained his danger of not passing more than four weeks ago. I offered an extra credit assignment, that if done well, could raise his grade by 50 points, giving him a B or possibly an A. The assignment would have really shown comprehension of the subject, thus taking the place of the original scores. I figured that I would give the student the benefit of the doubt that he just needed more time to master the material. In my mind, this was a win-win situation for all of us.
Friday afternoon, the deadline for the extra credit assignment, I looked at what was turned in, and I was disappointed. The project was half done and lacked effort. I only gave him half the points I had told the parent were possible, and I honestly felt that was being generous.
I've done my best to motivate this student, and I was told in the email that the parent felt I had not given the student credit for the hard work he put into the original work in social studies. I hate that. I hate the implication that I don't see the good in my students; I do. When they have a gap in the skills necessary to be successful, though, I am honest about that.
I hate grades. I hate the judgement that parents, students, and teachers feel surrounding those scores. I've done my best, though, and I just have to remind myself that assigning grades is part of the job I signed up for.