Friday, April 22, 2011

A Heavy Heart and a Lower Grade

Hi all!

Today I am going to vent. In case you don't know what that means . . . it means I am going to complain about something to get it out of my system.

I know that some people don't like reading posts that involved venting so I am warning you up front. If you are that kind of person - stop reading now!

So . . .being a teacher myself, I don't like to complain too vehemently about teachers. I honestly try to give teachers the benefit of the doubt because I have been there. I have done things as a teacher that must have seemed insane to some of my students so I try to cut teachers some slack.


When you are grading a project - any project - as a teacher it is always a good idea to have some kind of rubric to guide you as this helps keep you "honest." If you follow a rubric you can't arbitrarily give a grade to a person because they "normally" don't do well or because they upset you in class that night. It is also a very, very good idea to make sure that your students understand how you are grading them and just what you are looking for on assignments and tests. If you don't make your expectations clear students flounder trying to give you what you want without having any clue about what they should give you!

There is a teacher in my life, currently, who - as I am sure you may have guessed, has shown no evidence of doing either of my two recommendations. There have been rubrics from things like finals and some videos but papers (yes, we are back to papers) - uh-uh. Also, some grades are given with little or no explanation of why they are given.

One example from my personal experience is a paper on which I got one point off (yes, I know it is minor but it is an example of a way of doing things) while there was not one negative comment or mark on the paper. Just a random grade?!?

The only comments on the paper were positive so that left me wondering just why I missed that last darn point!

This "trend" of grading without clearly stating why points were taken off of why certain things result in certain amounts of points being taken off has apparently touched other students.

Last night I was faced with the frustration of a couple other students about the entire grading issue.

As these students vented (and I completely understood their frustrations personally), it also became clear that this teacher's grading ambiguities were causing a general sense of disheartenment (is that a word?).

These students, whom I consider to be promising students, are now feeling like they are not capable and that they should not continue in their chosen career path. All because of a particular teacher's grading.

Well, that and a seeming favoritism. You see, about half of the class had this teachers last semester for another class and somehow, that half of the class always seems to do much better than the half of the class who has never had the teacher before.

What can account for this?

When the semester started I thought that this was simply because half of the class knew how the teacher graded and how the teacher liked things done while we (yes, I am in the "new" half) had no clue. Sometimes this was verified by things that were expected but not explicitly told to the class. The teacher would later claim that the class had been told only to realize that it was LAST SEMESTER'S class that had been told. Fun, fun!

Another frustration is that another teacher (same program, different class)is close friends - VERY close friends - with several of the students in the program. This friendship is not hidden from the other students and is very obvious in many ways.

While I personally think that the teacher doesn't show favoritism in ways that could hurt the other students, some people believe that the friendship leads the teacher to provide opportunities to the "friends" that are not provided to the rest of the class.

How can the teacher avoid this when talking to the friends daily and being in constant contact with them and not in constant contact with the rest of the students?

Another issue with the friendship is that some of the "friends" are not very friendly to other students. Again- I haven't experienced this personally but I have seen it in action towards other class members.

There are inside jokes which are laughed at in class. There are comments made in class which can be taken as "we know this so we are better than you." There are looks and facial expressions (and women are so sensitive to these!).There are even comments about activities done by the "friends" and the teacher which, honestly, make the rest of the students (okay, maybe not ALL of the students but the ones I have heard from) a bit uncomfortable.

Not good!

As one of the more "seasoned" members of the class (read that as oldest!), I look upon this behavior, by the "friends" and the teacher, as rather immature and sometimes downright mean. This does make me pause though because several of the "friends" are old enough to know better.

They are old enough to know that there really should be a clear line between student and teacher. That there should be a reservation of behavior among people who are not included. After all, who doesn't know that you shouldn't pass out Valentine's to only SOME members of your class? This makes the people who don't get Valentine's feel bad! Some principle!

Is it only because we are talking about a program where almost all of the participants are female? I do understand that females are naturally catty - I think it is hard-wired into the brain. Yes, some (if not most) of us recognize our ability to be catty and work hard to control the urge but some . . . .just let it fly!

This behavior - both by the random grading teacher and the group of "friends"- is damaging people. It needs to stop.

The question is - how?

Am I personally strong enough to stand up and deal with this knowing that there will almost certainly be ramifications? (oh - did I mention that it seems like if someone other than the "favored" half of the class or the "friends" complains or questions something - they seem to get some retribution?)

I like to think I am a strong person but, am I THAT strong?

Even if I AM that strong. Should I be?


A special message for my friend Sarah - if she reads this - I am thinking about you and love you!

Voice Update: Boring as usual - doing well!


Mental P Mama said...

You are that strong. And, yes.

Dianne said...

I really hate stuff like this - politics in an academic setting is not good

I don't know if you should do something
can you get a few others on your side?

Chris H said...

I think that sucks.
If it was me I would send an ANONYMOUS LETTER to the 'boss' of said teacher spelling out what is going on in the class and how it is affecting half the classes participants.
The grading is the most important factor here... and the fact that you do not know what is expected in a paper or why you got said grade.

When something makes you that irate you really SHOULD do something about it.