“So, um, Miss? I’m just having a little trouble understanding what we’re supposed to do. Is this graded?”
My jaw muscles tense, and I immediately loosen my posture in an attempt to disguise my frustration. I’m about to launch into my “it’s all graded” monologue, when I take a breath. Pause, I tell myself, Listen. We’re only on Day 3 of 22. We barely know each other.
I’m standing in front of some students; others are watching me online. What are they really asking? They are confused. They want to do well. They want to manage their time and their workload. This question – this common, annoying, awful question – is not a sign that things aren’t going well. It’s just a question. It’s communication.
I launch into my monologue anyway. After all these years, the response track in my mind appears to be stuck in a rut. I try not to go on.
Afterwards, when the kids at home have signed off and the ones at school have gone home, I close my laptop and allow myself to slump in my chair. “Is this graded?”
I can’t even remember all of their names. I probably won’t recognize them on the street next year if – when – we are done with masks. Semesters have become quadmesters, and every day of class feels fleeting and precious. Though we are supposed to deliver only the basics of the curriculum, there is still so much I want for these students.
I want them to find joy in reading and writing, to remember what it feels like to create, to know that they can affect the world around them, that they *must* affect the world around them. I want them to take risks and to speak loudly. I want them to ask questions and reject the answers. I want them to be curious and to love learning. I want them to know that they are important. I have 18 days left.
Is this graded? Yes. No. I don’t know how to answer. It’s not graded, but it still counts. It’s all graded, but the grades don’t matter. They really don’t.
I whisper into the classroom, “What matters is you” and I hope that the echoes of that answer will linger until the students return tomorrow.