Grades are not Halloween candy
“WE GOT AN A?!??!?!”
“Are you SERIOUS?”
“I can’t believe this.”
“When are your office hours?”
Handing tests back is never my favorite day of the semester. The mix of emotions is palpable and when you’re the teacher, sometimes unsettling. I do love the absolute elation of the group who earns an A and immediately starts to celebrate their hard work. But the apathy, dejection, anger and frustration of the groups who did less well can be disconcerting. Self-directed grumpiness I can handle. I get angry when I make mistakes, too. But I know how to contextualize them. I can typically understand why I got the grade I did. For example, if I don’t read the directions carefully, or if I choke up or DON’T STUDY ENOUGH, I can usually figure out the cause of my grade. Notice I have not said “Because my teacher is a jerk” or “Because she/he GAVE me a B.” I recognize my own role in earning the grades that I get.
Now I know that some teachers are completely unfair and do assign grades somewhat arbitrarily, but I try to be transparent about the process. I’m a tough grader. I have exacting standards and I admit it from day one. I write them in my syllabus. I clearly outline what A, B, C and D mean to me and how to achieve each grade. A means EXCELLENT, above and beyond the requirements. B means GOOD, above the minimum, well done. C means average, minimum requirements met. D is subpar. F is a sad face. And I make it abundantly clear how to obtain each grade. I offer rubrics, study guides, practice problems. Bottom line, I do not GIVE out grades, they are earned.
Of course, I’m sure that sounds all well and good to students before tests are handed back and they look up at me with giant sad doe eyes as if I’ve just murdered a puppy in front of them. How do I get them to separate themselves emotionally from the evaluation of their work? Grades should not equate to self-worth (note to ourselves, grad students)! And yet, how do I get them to admit their roles in the process? To take responsibility. To know that grades are not like candy to be given out to anyone who shows up and knocks on the door… I do not know.
Ah well, enough ranting for the day. Hope you are well!
P/S I voted today. Did you?!
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