InClass

Get your learners to invest in their success — and to make an appointment to talk about their grades. Bet I can make you cringe in an instant. Ready?“Mrs. Sparks, what’s my grade?”Ugh. Don’t pretend like you don’t have at least one of these kiddos in your current classroom. Maybe every day for the

Feb 15, 2018

Get your learners to invest in their success — and to make an appointment to talk about their grades.


Bet I can make you cringe in an instant. Ready?

“Mrs. Sparks, what’s my grade?”

Ugh. Don’t pretend like you don’t have at least one of these kiddos in your current classroom. Maybe every day for the entire school year, you’re asked this question at least once.

It doesn’t matter what age group you teach. It doesn’t matter that our 21st-century students have 24-hour access to our gradebooks. It doesn’t matter that some of us have 150-plus other students, or if you answered that same kiddo yesterday (84 percent, same as the day before).  And, above all other frustrations, it doesn’t matter how hard you have tried to convince each of your learners that their grade in your class (or any other) does not reflect their value as a human being.

How do we coach kids on how to talk to you — and other teachers, future teachers, even future employers — about their grades and performance assessments? To help frame these conversations, we gathered some kernels of truth to consider, and a few tips for maintaining your own sanity.

1. Understand where their anxiety comes from, and redirect it. Students are forever being reminded that their school performance is directly correlated to their success in life. Parents and teachers preach this from an early age. So it’s easy to see why our learners are stressed out about getting that A in chemistry or passing their social studies quiz. If your GPA represented what you would amount to, you would need constant affirmation as well. But we know this is not the actual case — and it’s time to come clean with our students. Let them know that when you assign a score or letter grade to an assignment, you make sure that it accurately represents the piece of work in front of you — not your perception of their worth.

2. Post the hours for the library. If grades are available online, there is no reason students should be what’s-my-grade-ing you during productive class time. Teach students one time how to check their grades (and keep these instructions on a handout and your class website), and then post hours for a media center or computer lab where they can access that information outside of your class.

3. Invite students to discuss their grades during office hours. Having an open-door policy during set times and being approachable for students to make appointments with you gives you the perfect boundaries for nipping unwanted grade-inquiries during class time. Post your office hours in a consistent space and remind your students that you would love to chat about their grades — at an appropriate time.

4. Teach them to take charge of their education. Learning to self-advocate is a vital life skill. When a student takes issue with his or her grade, assure him or her that you will listen to their concerns, but request some initial procedures and parameters. If the concern is about a particular assignment, learners should first reread the assignment’s instructions, as well as any corresponding rubrics, and review any comments that you left. Then, if they are still concerned, have them arrange a meeting with you when other students are not present. During this conversation, let them know that they should be specific, addressing why they think the grade was unfair, or what about the assignment or your grading confused them. For older students, making a copy of the assignment and annotating it with questions and counterpoints is a great strategy.

5. Let them know you are on their side. We want our students to do well — and they need to hear that often. Talking about grades should be a transparent and productive conversation, not a battle or set of accusations. You’re on the same team, working toward big goals, and it’s your job to show them an accurate reflection of their progress.

6. Give reflection time. Unless you give your class time for self-reflection, all of these strategies are going to fall short. Students need to monitor their learning process, and building in time for self-assessment is key for students to understand the bigger picture to their grade. Carve out bits of class time for learners to set learning goals, track their progress, and reflect on if they’ve hit these targets or need to monitor and adjust.

It’s a good thing that our students are so excited to talk about their grades — really! Let’s make those chats more productive (and less of an in-class distraction) by empowering kids with skills to self-monitor their academic progress and appropriately discuss concerns and solutions.

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