Posts tagged ‘GRADING’

I am never assigning essays again.

I made a rookie mistake.

I mean, it’s not REALLY a mistake. I very deliberately set up my MND unit to include three assessment activities: a test (mostly multiple-choice), a creative project (acting as review for the test), and the district-mandated literary analysis essay.

The problem is, I finished the unit at the same time that I finished the “in charge of the class” portion of my student teaching. And progress reports are due next week.

And I have set myself up to have to grade 250 assignments in the space of seven days.

Thank gourd I am not teaching, because there’s no way I could get through this all if I was responsible for classroom activities, too.

I managed to whip through the tests pretty quickly, thanks to a wonderful thing called CPS software (which, if you aren’t using it, you should go kick yourself in the butt and go write a grant for clickers RIGHT NOW) and a minimalist “checklist” rubric for the three short-essay questions.

We had a stupid Career Center day on Friday, and I was able to make a dent in the creative projects. I’ve pretty much graded all of the board games. Now on to the tougher stuff, like “lost scenes,” music videos, and loosely organized mock-tabloids.

But these essays – yargh. I am limiting myself to 5-10 minutes per paper, and yet I have still only graded ten. Why? Because they are MAKING ME CRAZY.

Coincidentally, today one of my RSS feeds had something to say about grading essays. Rate Your Students is a… well, I guess it might be a therapeutic tool for angsty professors. You’ve heard of Rate Your Professors, I’m sure; well, a bunch of professors got irritated by that site and created a blog where they basically rant about their awful students. It’s sick, twisted, and often entirely hilarious.

Anyway, today a chemistry professor submitted this gem:

Grading my finals
is easy as pi: no essays.
I teach chem, not lit.

Calculate numbers.
Equations are right or wrong.
No partial credit.

Poor comp and lit profs.
Students cannot plagiarize
If they do not write.

Chem grads get jobs.
People think we’re useful.
Pay accordingly.

Well rounded? Hell no!
I did learn to write Haiku
by reading this site.

Sounds pretty damn good, actually. I was kind of thinking I might go the PE teacher route. How much lesson planning and essay grading do you have to do to make kids run stair laps?

April 27, 2008 at 5:55 pm 1 comment

Mrs. Bees vs. Wonder Mother, Part I

The past week has been wrought with drama, thanks to a particularly nasty and extended altercation with an aggressive parent. My mentor says that she’s never encountered anything quite like it. I’m sharing this story because I’d like to commit it to virtual memory, because some of you may find it entertaining, and because some of you may find it helpful.

Did you read that article in Time that talked about the parents that drive teachers crazy? It was called “Parents Behaving Badly” (Feb. 21, 2005). Well, “Wonder Mother” is a pretty nice illustration of the “public defender” parent. I’ll share some illustrative quotes from that article here:

By the time children turn 18, they have spent only 13% of their waking lives in the classroom. Their habits of mind, motivation and muscles have much more to do with that other 87%. But try telling that to an Ivy-educated mom and dad whose kids aren’t doing well. It can’t be the genes, Mom and Dad conclude, so it must be the school.

At the most disturbing extreme are the parents who like to talk about values but routinely undermine them.

Student-teacher disputes can quickly escalate into legal challenges or the threat of them. The fear of litigation that has given rise to the practice of defensive medicine prompts educators to practice defensive teaching.

Without further ado, I begin my saga. And yes, it’s a long one…

The Background

I teach, among others, three sets of twins. This story concerns the pair of fraternal twins, who – despite being both males of Caucasian descent – shall be called Yin and Yang on this blog. This will help differentiate between Yin – the melancholy, silent, passive, ignorable boy who never speaks – and Yang, who is cheerful, noisy, and active. Both boys are bright, hardworking, and more along the lines of “future engineers” than “future scholars of literature.” They carry comfortable As in accelerated sophomore English.

The month of February was devoted to a major project, worth 250 points of their 3rd quarter grade. One week before the due date (a Monday), Yin and Yang came up to me to tell me that they would be absent Thursday and Friday to compete in an engineering competition. I asked them how their projects were coming, and they assured me that they’d been getting a lot of work done and were feeling confident. I told them that Thursday and Friday were library/computer lab days, so they’d have to complete any work left unfinished without the benefit of the library and lab.

On Thursday, while my students were finishing up their projects, I realized that there were a few recurring questions about one portion, an essay worth about 10% of the final grade. Taking the opportunity to flex my “creating helpful graphic organizer” muscles that I’d developed in my certification program, I threw together a worksheet that provided some generic questions they should answer. I printed it off, took it to the library, and told my kids that if they would like the handout it was available. Most, but not all, of them picked up a copy. Most, but not all, of them stuck it in the back of their binder and never looked at it again.

Second period Monday, Yang submitted his final project. It was pretty good, although it had some small issues that collaboratively dropped his project grade to a B. One such problem was that 10% essay, which he wrote as a bullet list.

Fourth period, Yin failed to turn in his project.

Now, my mentor teacher, DR, has a STRICT late work policy for the accelerated classes. Late work is not accepted. We provide “slowpoke” certificates so that smaller assignments can be turned in late – one per quarter – but they can’t be used on major projects or tests. By fourth period, however, I’d had a small number of (good) students arrive emptyhanded and brokenhearted. I spoke with DR and told her that I wanted to give half credit for students if they could get their projects in the following day. While the other students peer-reviewed one anothers’ projects, I had those without projects write me letters explaining their lateness. I also told them that if they could submit their project by the end of the day – meaning about 5 PM – that I would accept it as on time.

Yin’s project was submitted the following day, and was very good. He received a 248 out of 250 before the 50% penalty. The note I left him on his project indicated how disappointing it was for me to have to give such a low mark to such a good project, and that I hoped he would manage his time better in the future.

I’m sure he was disappointed, but he didn’t say anything and the semester went on.

to be continued…

April 12, 2008 at 1:04 am 1 comment

Back to School, and Third Quarter Grades

It is 11 PM on the last night of Spring Break. I am torn. On the one hand, this was a dismal excuse for a Spring Break. It’s bad enough not having the funds to go anywhere or do anything, but must I spend the last five days as a lonely Computer Monitor Widow? On the other hand, I don’t feel ready to go back. I’m in a bit of a funk (they might call it depression these days, but in my world we call it a “funk”) and, left to my own devices, I might not really have the energy or willpower to go back. You know the kind of funk I mean. It’s the kind where you want to hide under the bed or, lacking that, run away to join the pirates.

Patently, I AM going back. I’ll be happy once I get there. But I’m much less prepared than I’d hoped to be. I had kind of thought I might not start off the week with the film version of Midsummer Night’s Dream, but right now I’m happy for the excuse to not think for another day or two. Sigh. I needed a break. Now I really need one.

ENOUGH!

So, I’m putting the finishing touches on the third quarter grades. I’m going to submit them in a moment here (they’re due at 8 AM tomorrow) but possibly amend them when I get to school, as I need to double-check something I can’t access from home. Looking at my grades, I fear that I may be grading too easily. That, or I offered far too much extra credit. (The extra credit thing is certainly true, but I acted on professional advice, and don’t precisely regret it. This is a tough class.)

Among all of my students, regular and accelerated combined, I am reporting:

66 A’s
25 B’s
8 C’s
1 D
3 F’s

Wow. That’s kinda weird, actually. Only one D? I wonder how that happened.

Don’t get me wrong – this is FAR from a grade inflation factory over here. In fact, I keep getting grief from my “how to teach” classmates about being too hard on my kids. The thing is, they’re hard workers, and almost all of them are really “good” kids. Three of my four failing grades (because I count a D as failing, even if the school doesn’t) really do have bad attitudes, and the other seems to have a pathological aversion to turning in schoolwork despite being charming, helpful, and brilliant. Most of my C students are either working hard and pleased with their progress, or else screwed up on a major project and are struggling to get back to the good grades they prefer to earn.

My class averages are high as well (obviously). Second period has a 92% average, and third (my worst-behaved class) has a 90.2%. Fourth period (almost all girls, and my best-behaved class) and sixth period (my zaniest, but probably brightest, class) both have an impressive 95.4% average. Fifth period, my regular class, is holding steady with an 82.6%.

March 30, 2008 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

Poetry Anthologies and Inadvertent Plagiarism

I don’t actually want to blog – I seem to have lost the impetus, lately, but I have faith it will return – but I feel the need to comment on what I’m doing right now.

At the beginning of February, I assigned a Poetry Anthology. This was a slightly modified version of a project DR has always done with her accelerated sophomores. (I also made a slimmed-down version and assigned it to the regular sophomores, but that’s another post.) I taught it, in just about every way, with the same amount of structuring and scaffolding as DR.

The anthologies were due March 3. I was surprised that ANY students – knowing that this was a 250 point assignment, and that classroom policy dictated that accelerated projects could not be turned in late for credit – would not come with SOMETHING to submit. They did, however – about half a dozen of them.

The work that I did receive is overall good – particularly when I remind myself that I’m dealing with sophomores. Some of the anthologies are far better than others. Some exhibit a decided lack of time management. This is what I expected.

The one I’m grading right now is on track to get an A. I’m on second period (these are a bit time-consuming, but primarily I’m dealing with the fact that I’m doing too much actual teaching to grade) and so far, the boys are faltering and the girls are excelling (with one exception due to incompleteness). I don’t like to see that, but then again, it IS second period. They’re my most frustrating, low-achieving accelerated class. Only 11 kids in the room, and the air of “don’t want to be here” is apparently contagious.

I’ve graded six so far this afternoon, recording the following scores:

Gender

Score

Percentage

male 197 78.8%
female 147 (incomplete) 58.8%
male 215 86%
male 174 69.6%
female 247 98.8%
female 248 99.2%

 

Imagine how depressing it was to record those first four scores! I thought for sure that all of the students were going to flop, that somehow my instructions were bad, my classroom work time insufficient, my expectations misguided. Thank goodness for my two lovely ladies at the bottom of that table who proved that directions CAN be followed!

The main thing that is really perturbing me – and this is on all of the male students’ anthologies thus far – is the complete disregard for what we’ve taught them about research and internal citation. Not only did these boys fail to actually write a real essay for the required “featured poet biographical essay” component, but they failed to include a single internal citation between them. I’ve left notes in their scoring rubrics notifying them that what they have done is technically plagiarism, and that they need to be more careful because this is a serious offense.

Knowing sophomores, though, they’re not going to read that comment – or if they do, they’re not going to retain it. I think I’m going to do a mini-lecture on Monday. Show them a sample “essay” without internal citation, see who can identify the problem. Then tell them a little story about what happens to plagiarists at a college level. Sure, I know this isn’t quote-unquote “real” plagiarism – it’s carelessness, not deviousness. But it IS serious, and it is inexcusable after the amount of training we’ve done in class on appropriate research techniques.

This is a negative sort of post, but I want to record (for posterity, and for the very nice educators who have stopped by and left encouraging comments in the past few days) how happy I really am with these anthologies. I love this project, and love what the kids did with it. I SO want to teach tenth grade again next year, I can just TASTE it. And I know it’s not terribly likely. But still… want want want. I’m going to share some of these anthologies, through photographs, in the near future – I think. I’m just so proud of them. And some of the stuff is too good – or too funny – NOT to share. 🙂

In closing, an excerpt from the current anthology’s reflection essay:

After writing this anthology the only thing I can think of is how much time was put into the making of it. The decorations, all the time spent on the internet, and the writing blocks that had to be overcome. After I surpass that thought I decide that this was the most fun project I have done in an English class for quite some time.

I’ll take that.

March 9, 2008 at 6:53 pm 1 comment


The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

I am striving to maintain anonymity on this blog so that I may more freely interact with my fellow edubloggers. If you know who I am, please help me protect my anonymity in your comments. I use pseudonyms or initials for everyone I write about to preserve their anonymity as well.