Is this graded?

“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.

5 thoughts on “Is this graded?

  1. This whole “graded” world in education is one I’d like to toss for good. My last five years teaching I worked to take grading off the table and was more successful w/ some classes than w/ others. It’s tough to change the narrative and emphasis when grades are so carved into the system.

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  2. The whole “graded” thing feels especially weighted this year. I’m dreading turning my attention to upcoming report cards. I’m thrilled with my classroom community this year and the fact that my students are happy about being in school, helpful and kind with each other, and generally engaged and eager to learn. So, now I’ve been told that even though we have half the teaching time, we’re still grading them on report cards according to the standard benchmarks. Sigh…how do I message that to kids? I think “What matters is you” is maybe my best choice. Thanks, Amanda.

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  3. I, too, have a visceral reaction to that question. I love your conclusion, the whisper of “You Matter”. That’s really all that matters at this point.

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  4. Amanda, that last paragraph says everything. It is so poignant and beautiful. “What matters is you” echoing and reverberating throughout all the whole semester, trimester, quadmesters, or whatever! That really is all that matters. God bless them and you.

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  5. The whole emphasis on grades gets me tripped up. Why are we grading? Who is it for? Is the assessment driving instruction or is it for the report cart we’re obliged to give?

    WHAT MATTERS IS YOU… that’s the most important message!

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