How I Really Feel About Grading

I removed the “sit up squared shoulders” rule from my Classroom Rules this past year because it doesn’t work. Children cannot be forced to pay attention. Even if half of them do sit up and look as if they are with us, they are very often not. We fool ourselves. We think that we can force kids to learn and perform, and we are wrong. If we could ask those kids who can’t force themselves to do that rule, that bad rule, “Why isn’t this working with you?”, some of them would answer back to us, “I can’t give you any of me because my soul is hurting about so many other things and I am scared and I can’t pay attention. Don’t take it personally. You are a good teacher. Please understand, I just don’t have that much interest in this language. I am having a hard time and all people ever do is make me do stuff and it’s hard to listen sometimes. Please don’t make me do anything. I’m suffering.”

And then what we have to do is take this message from them, and listen to it and feel its truth. This might mean responding to them, “I see it, and you are right. I bow to your suffering. Just sit there and do the best you can, because I know you are, because I believe that everybody is doing the best they can at any given moment. When you say that you are not that interested in the language, I would agree. It is very hard for both of us. I have to stand up here and act as if I know what I am doing when in truth I kind of feel like you do and wish I could just sit back and do what you do sometimes. A lot of the time. Because being a teacher is scary. And school is scary. I am trying to make my class as interesting as I can, and please accept that I am doing my best. We are both doing our best. So I will send you some love and approval for what I do see you do, because that feels to me right now like all you want from me. That’s right, isn’t it? And to help things I will speak more slowly and I will do my best to find a way to reach you. I will not teach in a way that makes you uncomfortable and makes you perform. Just try to listen for now, o.k? I will try to make my instruction more interesting for both of us. I will simplify old tales from our culture and all you have to do is listen and maybe I will ask you to draw things and we can talk about what you drew and make stories out of that and maybe you could have a job in our community but if you don’t that is fine too. I get it. This I promise. I get it.

“I will grade you on what I feel you are doing, not on what I see and barely on those quizzes and free writes and stuff. I will use that new rubric because it is soft on you and helps me keep you in my classroom. And in class I will try to reach you, but nobody will know. And then I will fudge your grade so you can stay with me and test me and see if my understanding and love for you is strong. Because I cannot fail you. It is not in my heart. I cannot do it. I will lie to the school just enough to keep you in the class all year, and to avoid those horrible conversations with parents and all those people who think you are lazy. I know you are just blocked, so if I fail you they will take you from me and then where will we be? You must have someone in your court, right? I will protect you while you try to get through these years. I will provide the school with quiz scores and such grades to the administration. Don’t worry, it will be our secret. I know what you can do and I will wait all year if I have to.”



3 thoughts on “How I Really Feel About Grading”

  1. The first sentence says it all, “I removed the “sit up squared shoulders” rule from my Classroom Rules this past year because it doesn’t work”

    I had a similar rule: “Sit as an in an interview” — Of course, at this point of the year some kids are sitting on tables relaxed and just listening to the language. I have an unwritten rule “Let your imagination run wild.” This replaces “keep desk clear” because I went deskless this year. It’s taken from mGR, I believe.

    1. Let your imagination run wild! — this is it. When I watch my two-year-old son acquire Spanish I see his imagination running wild! Even as he learns his favorite stories by heart, his imagination is off to the races.

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