In which I guess it’s spring now

This little guy comes up al by his lonesome every year right around this time, in the little patch of what used to be vines and is now a weedy hellscape right outside our front door. You can see that nothing around it is really alive yet, and none of the trees are budding (well, barely, maybe, a couple of them) and the grass is still basically dead. So this little flower– which, again, is all by itself and wasn’t planted there on purpose– is really the earliest sign of impending spring that we get.

Other than the weather, of course. It’s been gorgeous all week. Walks have been taken. This is a weird week around here; it’s the last week of the quarter, and I always try to reserve at least a couple of in-class days at the end of the quarter for my kids to turn in late work and improve their grades. There are no penalties at all for late work this school year– have I talked about this? Surely I have– because I have no real control over these kids’ time. I have heard far too many students tell me that they missed class because they were babysitting or their parents needed them to go somewhere or just whatever to be penalizing kids for late work right now. Go ahead, turn a quarter’s worth of work in in the last three days of the quarter. If you manage to get good grades on everything under those circumstances I don’t see a reason to penalize you for your timing. Screw it.

Anyway, point is I’m not doing a lot at work this week other than answering questions as they come up, which keeps me busy in some classes and means that I might as well be invisible in others; there’s no directed instruction going on right now, and there won’t be any until Monday. Friday is a teacher record day, which will be even less of a thing than usual. I typically regard TRDs as days off even though I go to work, and in fact I’m planning on heading into the building for a bit on Friday to do some stuff in my room. I have less of a grading load than usual because everything being online has made grading obscenely easy this year, especially with a couple of tricks I just learned about how Google Forms operates that have streamlined things even further.

I am, right now, tentatively planning on returning to work after Spring Break. I’ll need a letter from my doctor, which hopefully won’t be super complicated to acquire; it turns out that if your doctor writes a letter saying you shouldn’t be working during a global pandemic, HR wants another letter from your doctor saying my bad, never mind before they let you wander back into their buildings. My second shot is scheduled for the 25th, and Spring Break is the first week of April, so by the time that’s over I’ll be well past any side effects and all that delicious, delicious immunity will have kicked in.

I’ll have the flu in three days, I guarantee it. My immune system is shit under the best of circumstances, and what with having been home for a year I’m expecting to get the hell kicked out of me even if I don’t come down with Covid. Maybe continuing to be masked up will prevent it. Hopefully so; we’ll see. I haven’t been sick since I spent the entirety of last March sick; at this point it will probably qualify as a nice change of pace.

Bleurgh

Shoulda written a post during one of my preps today. As it is, I just individually created and emailed 64 progress reports; I’ll do the rest of my kids tomorrow. My eyes are bleary and my head hurts and at least a third of these kids if not half are never going to open the email. One of them actually replied to it– a progress report, mind you, containing all of his assignments, his grades on said assignments, and the dates said assignments were assigned– and asked for a list of what he was missing and when those assignments were from.

My reply to the email did not contain the word “motherfucker,” and for that I deserve an award.

I’m going to bed now.

Grading update

Quick post tonight, because my eyes are bugging me and my head is full of The Mandalorian but I don’t want to talk about it yet– I did, in the end, refuse to fail any of my students, at least for the semester. I decided any missing work would go in at 40% rather than a 0– 40% because it puts a little bit of a buffer between that and the 50% floor grade I’ve always used for work that was attempted but done poorly. After that, any student between 51 and 59% got bumped up to a D-, and then I did give the higher of the two quarter grades as a semester grade rather than an average. For most of my students that didn’t end up being much of a change; a B+ sliding up to an A- or maybe a D+ going to a C, but there were a few where it was a pretty staggering jump, and I don’t care. If you were an A student one grading period and an F student another grading period, it’s because something happened, not because you suddenly forgot how to add. That actually did happen with two students, and I gave both of them the A.

There were maybe twenty kids who still failed both quarters even with those changes, and those kids got an N, which is effectively a “no grade.” Basically every kid who did something over the course of the semester passed. I don’t know that I’m willing to go to quite these lengths to keep kids from failing in a non-pandemic sort of situation, but that’s the situation we’re in right now, so I’m going to adapt to it.

Thinking through my grades

My final grades for the quarter and for the semester are due … well, actually, I don’t have any idea when they’re due, but they’re going to be finished on Friday before noon. I’ve talked before about how much it rubs me wrong to fail any of my kids this quarter, and I’m currently thinking about what I want to do about my grades right now. Represented above are the actual current grades for my first hour students. The Q1 grade is what they actually received (you can see a couple, like Marge Simpson and Riri Williams, whose grades I nudged up a bit already) and the Q2 grade is their current grade with my current policies on grading– ie, nothing turned in and genuinely attempted receives less than a 50%, but work that is not turned in at all receives a 0.

(There are one or two kids whose grades go down slightly; this is an artifact of me doing this quick and sloppy and a couple of extra credit assignments causing weirdness. Ignore those.)

Ignore the third column of numbers, as it’s just their total number of points. The fourth column is their grade in the 2nd quarter if I change every zero to a 50%. The ones highlighted in yellow are the kids who would still fail the quarter under that arrangement. Highlighted in green are the kids whose grades would have been Fs for the 2nd quarter but move into passing range if I bring up zeroes to 50s. Homey DeClown should also be green; I missed him.

A couple of things stand out. First, note Bruce Wayne, who had a D+ during the first quarter and is pulling a hundred percent during the second quarter. Bruce has not suddenly become a good math student, and interestingly, Bruce’s sister’s grade also shot up. I am attributing this to issues at home during the first quarter. Notice also the grade of Montgomery Burns, who was a stellar student first quarter and who fell apart during second– also not, I presume, because all of his math ability suddenly leaked out of his ear.

I have no reason to believe that this class is any different from the rest of mine. We have been given the option of giving an N grade to kids who simply haven’t shown up; N effectively means No Grade. There is talk about high school students having to retake any grade they got an N on and it will not change a GPA. I am fully expecting them to back off on that requirement and I don’t actually know whether it applies to middle school.

At any rate, of the six kids who would still be failing: Flash Gordon has been in touch all year, and I am absolutely certain that the reason he’s not been in school is that he’s been raising his siblings. He’s passing. I should have passed him first quarter, honestly. Peter Parker, as far as I know (and I’m cognizant of the fact that there’s a lot I don’t know) is the kid you’re thinking of when you talk about the kids who don’t deserve the bump they’d get from me fiddling with their grades, because they made their beds and they should sleep in them. Last year he was a smart kid who chose to fail and frankly e-learning hasn’t noticeably changed his grades. The rest of them have more or less been no-shows and would be good candidates for the N grade.

Also, I’m not averaging semester grades. The semester grade is going to be the higher of the two quarter grades, period. I’m doing that even if I don’t end up bumping the zeroes to 50s. The office can fight me on it if they want to; I don’t think they will and frankly it’s a fight that I think I’m well-positioned to win.

In which I’ve been thinking

At this point I am fairly certain that my students will not be returning to school during the second semester. It is possible that they will– the district has given no hints that I’m aware of of how long this current round of e-learning is expected to last– but the notion that we’d send them home at the end of November and bring them back before January seems unreasonable even by my current district’s standards.

So I’ve ben thinking a lot about semester grades. In the past week, the following have all happened:

  • One student’s mother had a baby and she promptly stopped coming to school or showing up virtually. I am a hundred percent certain she has been taking care of her five other siblings.
  • One student emailed me to let me know that her mother has tested positive for covid and that she and her twin sister have not been tested but have been sick and are both assuming they have it.
  • One student, who was a straight-A kid until we went to e-learning in March, at which point he disappeared, has remained disappeared all year up until this week, where he resurfaced, emailed me to find out what work he could still do, did five weeks worth of work in two days, and assured me that he would be around regularly from now on. He did the work after I told him that I’d be happy to exempt him from it depending on why he’d been gone. He said he didn’t want to talk about it and then did all the work, which … raises some questions.

I have had at least one suicide attempt this school year, one student (more than one? Christ, I don’t remember) had a sibling murdered, and at least two have done stints in mental hospitals. And that’s just the stuff I know about. Then there’s the less emotionally taxing stuff like internet outages or internet not-existings.

I think I’m passing everyone this semester. Everyone. No matter what. The minimum grade anyone could get in my class at semester would be a D.

I refuse to fuck up anybody’s lives any further by tossing shitty grades onto all of the bullshit they’re already having to endure right now. So, theoretically– hell, not theoretically, I know it’s going to happen– there will be some kids with no particular life traumas, full internet access, and happy, middle-class two-parent homes who have done no work at all this semester because they’re shitheads who don’t care and know they can get away with it.

That kid got a D and didn’t “deserve” the grade he got. He didn’t try, and he should have failed. Chose to, in fact.

My rebuttal, and you best believe I’m being completely honest right now: What the fuck do I care?

It’s not like it’s a good grade. Getting a D in my math class isn’t going to amass any privileges for him or anything. But not failing for a kid whose life has gone to shit recently in any of a number of ways could at least theoretically provide a moment of good news in a year that for many of us has had very little of it. And frankly, right now, that’s enough for me to justify it, I think.

I haven’t completely decided, and I did email my boss to see if he wanted any input on the matter, so I may end up overruled anyway. But I think there’s a good chance of me putting a D in as the floor on my grades this semester.

What say you, internet?