Category Archives: grading

Last Day of Freedom

Today is officially my last day of summer. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I will need to be at school. Many freshmen will arrive and go through their first day of high school via freshmen orientation. Luckily, I don’t teach freshmen, so while they are running through their schedule in the afternoon, I will be putting together last-minute things. I’d love to put together last minute touches on my rooms, but that will have to happen after school.

As I head into my fourth year of teaching, I realize one amazing fact: this is the first job that I’ve had for more than three years. As I’m counting school years instead of calendar years, it works. I’m proud of myself for that fact. The first three years weren’t easy by any means. I’m not kidding myself in thinking that this next year will be easy either. No…we’re changing the game, again.

My district decided to institute a change in grading policy this year. Apparently, they’ve been studying the research for three years (according to an article in our local paper). However, the first we heard of it was last year. And, we’re expected to make these huge sweeping changes in how we grade, what we grade and how we decide what to assess and how much that assessment is worth — in one year. As someone who is her own worst critic and who really wants to be a good teacher — I’m in panic mode. I think that the only reason I’ve calmed down internally is because it’s necessary for survival. My insomnia was about a week long — which is too long. Part of it was my brain in panic mode about a number of things. Part of it was also because my apartment was too damn hot. Apparently, I need it to be about 70 degrees in order to sleep properly. It was between 75 and 80 in my bedroom, till I turned the a/c down super low (it’s wonky & doesn’t work right) and wet my hair before bed so I’d be colder yet. The heatwave plaguing us finally broke yesterday too, so…that was nice.

SBG is going to be a huge mindset change for many people. As someone who grew up with the points system and who did her homework because a) I wanted good grades and b) it was expected, this is a change. I like the idea of grading w/ rubrics. I like the idea of grading less (since that will apparently happen), but…I have to alter a lot of my assessments. I also have to change my mindset of HOW I grade many things. Additionally, there are a number of other responsibilities we have, as teachers, this year. This is why I’m freaking out.

And…we have a new principal. *glub*

So, when I say it’s my last day of freedom…that’s true and untrue. I’ve been struggling w/ anxiety about all these changes since June. So, I’ll never be free of that till I’m comfortable with the new grading system, etc. But, this is my last day that I have that’s officially summer.

Tomorrow morning, bright and early…I resume my teacher life full-time. I’m excited, but scared as hell.

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Filed under 2010, beginnings, grading

Grading..and related musings…on a Saturday night

So, it’s Saturday, after 10 p.m. I’m sure there are people out there who are doing much more exciting, typical Saturday night things — drinking, singing karaoking, bowling, playing board games w/ friends, uh…yeah. I’m kind of a nerd and sometimes don’t have much of a social life. I’m not sure what normal people do on a Saturday night. Anyway…

So, I’m grading. I had to bring the laptop from school home, reset my home modem, but finally VOILA! I can put grades into our new online gradebook program w/o glitches. That is so reassuring and only a small hassle. Before, on my personal lappy, I’d get kicked out of the grade program & wouldn’t be able to do anything. So, this weekend, I brought the laptop home.

We have grades due Monday a.m. We have grades due then because we have Parent-Teacher Conferences on Tuesday. This is conference evening number 3 of 4. We have four nights of conferences a year because we’re on the 4×4 block schedule.

Have I mentioned lately that I LOATHE the 4×4 block schedule? I think it is entirely overrated and does NOT help our students. When you have students who are unmotivated, have learning issues (both that relate to their level of intelligence and their level of work ethic, etc), and attendance issues, then having a semester’s worth of material crammed into a quarter is NOT effective. It also sucks because students only get half a year of English (and math, and science, social studies, etc) each school year. The level of retention from one year to the next of basic skills in core classes is almost nil. (Or, at least it seems like it). Not to mention that if a student has English first semester, freshmen year (for example) they may not have it again until second semester, sophomore year.

Block schedule, the 4×4, is designed for motivated students who are ready to do the work. That is NOT the type of students that are the majority at my school.

Anyway…7 out of 20 passing in 1st block; 14 out of 23 passing in 3rd block; 10 out of 19 passing in 4th block. That’s not very promising, especially my first block. However, 7 of those failures are within the passing mark. They’re not far off from passing — so they have a shot of bring up their grades to passing.

The other thing that kills me about students some times (in general) is their attendance. I have 2 students in first block that NEVER show. Several of my first block kids are chronically tardy. I HATE assigning detentions for tardies, b/c a) I hate keep track of the paperwork b) I hate having to call home about that and c) I don’t think they’re effective. Dear readers: how do you deal with tardies/detentions, etc? Anyway, I have a handful of kids who miss my 3rd block often as well. AND, I have one kid who is hardly ever shows up for my 4th block. My 4th block class is probably my WORST class of offenders related to tardies. I have one kid who is late to class and also late back from lunch — EVERY DAY!

Anyway…I should get back to the wretched grading thing, I suppose. Bleagh. I hope my grades get better, the more things I add.

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Filed under attendance, block schedule, conferences, grading, tardies

Two of Two — assorted musings

Check out this article, all you teacher bloggers out there — it was an interesting blip to read. Sometimes I wonder — do any of my colleagues have any idea that I blog? I know I have friends who know (particularly those in other states; it feels safer that way), but what about people here?

Things have been crazy at my school lately. I have a cheerleader suspended for bullying (of the cyber variety). A JV cheerleader was suspended for fighting (dur). The teacher I share a room with — some of his students found a knife in there this morning. For some reason it just seems like this school year is on this weird track with strange/negative/scary things going on, and I can’t shake that feeling.

I thought that as a second-year teacher, I’d feel more secure about my teaching. That I’d be more confident and in control in the classroom. That I’d figure out a good organizational system. I still feel very much like I’m trying to get my feet under me. Grading keeps swallowing me whole. Cheerleading zaps my energy (but, since I’m not the head sponsor, I don’t have nearly the stressors with that!). I barely make it to the gym, and the lack of endorphins leads to more stress and more feeling yucky, emotionally/mentally. I feel sometimes like I’m just battling my students for control (though it IS better than last year). And, even though I feel like I’m so often on “beast mode” (as my students call it — love being compared to some video game thing), my 4th block (my bad class) seems to like me. It’s weird. In particular — I had one kid yesterday who kept asking why I had to give him detentions for tardies when we’re “homies”. Right. The other example is the kid who keeps referring to me as Mrs. His Last Name. Sorry no, I do NOT think so. Ick!!!!!

There’s been no obit on my student — that’s both weird and frustrating.

I feel like I’m doing the world’s crappiest job teaching Macbeth. This is my new prep this year (and very new, as I’m fairly unfamiliar with Brit Lit). It doesn’t help I have people who are reluctant (putting it mildly) to read out loud. We had 5 of my 18 gone yesterday. No one wanted to pick up the slack and read for people who were missing (we have assigned volunteer parts for each act). So, I told them all to read out loud. I do SO MUCH BETTER when we’re reading out loud and I can stop them and explain and then have them carry onward. So far, instead, they’ve been reading the majority of Macbeth on their own. That does not feel effective to me — it feels like we all have disconnect. I believe plays, particularly, need to be a big group learning experience. Hard when no one will read out loud in class though. *sigh* Any suggestions on how to make up for that — any tricks to make the in class discussions more productive and meaningful? GAH!

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Filed under grading, macbeth, students, weirdness