How am I doing in here? What’s my grade?

what's my grade, how am I doing in here, Jane GoodwinMamacita says:  There will always be students who have no idea of their standing in a class; honestly, when a student says to me, “How am I doing in this class? What’s my average?” I want to scream. Even if he is computer-illiterate (and if so, he won’t make it at the college level, sowwy) all he has to do is check his folder. All graded work is supposed to be kept in there, and if he’s that anxious to know his standing, he can add up his scores and average them on paper. Sheesh. Of course, if there are no graded papers in his/her folder, I’m going to guess that he/she isn’t doing all that well. In my class, you have to show up and do the work and TURN IT IN if you want to pass.  I’m unreasonable like that.

But, but, it’s so easy these days to know one’s exact class standing!

The students who are going to succeed just go online, type in their login and password, and check their grades themselves.

Besides, any good student at almost any level knows how he’s doing in any class at any given point in time. If they show up and take their quizzes and tests and turn in their homework and participate and laugh at my jokes they’re probably doing quite well. If they don’t do these things, probably not. It ain’t rocket science, except that, on some days, it is.

Dear Parents, please don’t call your child’s teacher daily and ask for an average, at least, not very often. Chances are pretty good that if you can’t find any graded papers in your kid’s backpack or notebook, he’s not doing very well. Please don’t expect that your kid will be allowed to make up all that missing or poor work.  Organization and work ethic are every bit as important as an actual score.  In fact, without the former, the latter will be pretty bad.

Your child’s teacher has an entire classroom of students, and if each parent asked the teacher to send home a daily report, the poor teacher might as well put up a cot and start paying rent because there isn’t going to be much of a home life. And yes, parents ask us to do that all the time. At the secondary level, one teacher might have over 200 students.  Even with email, it takes a long time.

At midterm, most schools send out half-way-point standings. Check your child’s grades. If he’s doing poorly, call the school and make an appointment with the teacher. NEVER just walk in off the street and ask the teacher to give up her lunch or prep or those valuable few minutes before class starts in the morning or those hectic few minutes after the last class leaves in the late afternoon without prior notice. (Would you walk into your dentist’s office, or your doctor, or your lawyer, or your accountant’s offices without an appointment? Or at least, an emergency involving blood and bone fragments?)

Please don’t march in like a Teutonic Reichmaiden and assume that the teacher is a psychotic who hates all children and yours in particular, and that your child is innocent, totally innocent, and his straight-A work has been shredded by the teacher so the world will never see it. I hate to burst your bubble, but it’s probably more your child’s fault than anyone else’s.

Every single night, require your child to SHOW YOU the contents of his backpack. If the papers are wadded up, give your child some incentive to not ever do that again. Require your child to file papers immediately in a pocket folder because you’re going to be looking them over every night. If this interferes with television for either of you, cry me a river.

Do not even turn on that television until this has been done. If there is homework, make sure your child has it finished before the tv is touched. Ditto computer, telephone, and any other electronic gadgetry your child has been playing with instead of doing his academics. Don’t, however, deny your children who ARE doing it right just because one of them isn’t. Sometimes, the sound of a sibling enjoying tv or a computer game or a friend can light a fire under a slacker kid. If it makes him vicious, you’ve got problems that aren’t school-related. Call a shrink.

If your kid is an athlete and brings home a bad mid-term report, ask the coach to bench him. Usually, schools do that anyway; sports are games, and games are only for kids who have done the actual SCHOOL part of their kid-duties. A good coach will do that anyway.

Is your kid one of those students for whom sports are all he has going for him? Is playing ball his life’s priority? Help him change those priorities, because his are all wrong. Don’t EVER argue with a coach for benching your kid for low grades. Even the kid knows he deserves it.

I really don’t have to deal with these issues much any more, because at the college level, I don’t have many parents demanding that I change Junior’s grade, etc. I do have a few, though. It’s incredible and really quite sad that so many parents seem to be living their own lives over again vicariously, through their children.  If you are the parent of a college student, you should probably also know that I am forbidden by law to discuss your child’s grades with you.  In fact, I’m not even allowed to admit that I’ve ever heard of your child.  All I can do is say, politely and professionally, “Thank you for calling.”

I’m not a mean teacher, in spite of what you might think.  I am, however, a teacher (and a parent) who required all of my students to work, to obey, and to behave. I still can’t think of a single viable excuse for slacking off on any of those three things. Once those three things were mastered, the creativity could flow and we could use our wings. Once students learned that I would not put up with anyone who did not understand the big three, we could have fun. It did not take most of them very long to learn that it was better for all to behave in ol’ Mrs. G’s classroom, because for those who did, the rewards were many and awesome, and for those who didn’t, well, o—KAY then. . . I poisoned them and buried them on the playground, under the wood chips. Nobody missed them.

That might be an exaggeration, but will you hate me if I tell you that I thought about it on occasion? Oh, so do you. Don’t lie to me.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Some people think I’m strict when in fact I’m a pussycat for students who behave well and take education seriously.  The other kind of students don’t appreciate what they’ve got while they’ve got it.

And I say things like, “Shame on you!”

Because, you see, I really do believe that people are encouraged from a very early age to believe that they have a perfect right to please themselves in all ways, whenever and wherever they are, and that their parents are the main ones who encourage it.

Perhaps if we help our children learn that some actions and words ARE shameful, our children will treat each other better, and everyone’s self-esteem (you really don’t want to get me started on that topic) will rise naturally, instead of being inflated with bullshit so it rises regardless of what the child says and does.

Also, I use a red pen.  I like to think of the ink in there as BLOOOOOOD.  red grading pen, Jane Goodwin

I want my students’ self esteem to soar, but I want it to be genuine, which means they’ll have to work for it.  That way, they’ve got a right to be proud.

Also, I like to eat Twinkies when I grade papers.


How am I doing in here? What’s my grade? — 2 Comments

  1. As usual, great post. Interestingly, strangely, whatever, I just posted the quote from Thomas Paine’s AMERICAN CRISIS on my facebook page; “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.” It will be on display in my classroom starting Monday….something for my 8th graders to think about and perhaps stretch their brains to figure out the meaning before I explain it to them later.

  2. I got a call this week: “Why is my daughter failing? She had all A’s in middle school at **** school.”
    Sir, have you gotten your username and password from her to check all of her grades for all of her classes on line, every day?
    No, what’s that?
    Please have her give you the information tonight when she gets home.
    What I wanted to say was she is failing because she didn’t study for the test and has 7/10 missing assignments, and I don’t believe she was EVER all A’s! Anywhere, ever!
    I get this from some parents every year and can’t figure out what they expect-I should give her A’s because she might have gotten one when she was younger? I think their real message is that I must be a bad teacher because the other teachers gave her A’s.
    I refuse to show my students their records, even when they complain that they forgot their codes, etc. So go to the office and get what you need and take care of it yourself!
    I think I am getting crotchedy in my old age. Still haven’t given out one pencil this year and it’s amazing that the little dears seem to be able to find one of their own. A few still come and say “I don’t have a pencil.” My response is that is so sad; not my problem!

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