Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Day, Another...

...fill-in your own blank. It's the new year, calendar-wise, but it's still the same old year, school-wise. We're heading into the end of the second quarter, which means two things :

1) students whining about "how can I bring my grade up?"

b) final exams are starting at the end of the week.

The final exam thing is sort of nice. It means a bit of a break for me, as they are all mostly multiple-choi... I mean, "selected response," and so they are easy to grade. Since we don't hand them back to the students (can't, in the case of the county exams), I don't even have to really write intelligible feedback on them either.

#1 is a bit more bothersome though, especially with our administrative push to get rid of a student's "zeros" at virtually any cost. My snap answer is, "invent a time machine, go back nine weeks and kick your past self into doing the work and studying for tests to begin with." Needless to say, they generally don't like that answer ("they" being both students and administration). My alternative answer is, "don't screw up next time you take the class." This one goes over even more like the proverbial lead balloon.

I don't understand the idea that a student who waits until the last week of the quarter should have the opportunity to make things up, when they've had x weeks to do so already. It's not fair to the students who do what they are supposed to do (ie, turn completed work in on time, or ask for things the day they come back from an excused absence), and it teaches nothing about responsibility to let a student make up things whenever. Talk about setting a kid up for failure...

The grading policies and my school's implementation of them are disgusting. I can understand the need for consistency from teacher-to-teacher, when dealing with the same subject. However, the requirement to allow for retaking of quizzes or redoing labs, and the "minimum 50%" rule that are mandated by the county do nothing but allow students to acquire underdeveloped study skills and allow students who really haven't mastered material to get credit for a class. When I have a "top science student" in my anatomy class who routinely scores an uncorrected 30-40% on quizzes, and retakes every one of them to boost his score up to an 80-90%, but then bombs the chapter test with the usual, uncorrected 30-40%, this tells me that the policy is not beneficial.

This sad state of affairs is only compounded by the complete lack of motivation on the part of most of the non-honors students. Attain a 30% on that last quiz? Obviously, that's something to brag and laugh about with your friends! At least most of my honors-level students have the decency to be ashamed of their poor grades. Unfortunately, though, too many of them simply accept the grade and move on, without ever asking themselves "why?" and more importantly, "how can I do better next time?"

These students are the future, and already they are caught in a vicious cycle of repeating their own history, over and over again. Worse still, the obvious is pointed out -- behaviors have to change -- and yet, nothing is done. I can't force them to self-reflect, and I do my best to open their eyes, too often for naught.

Enough venting for now though. I have papers to grade, and a hockey game to watch tonight. Maybe that will elevate my mood.

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