The misnomer about the end of the school year is that things are winding “down.” Actually, things are winding up.
During the last couple of weeks, especially the past few days, a mad dash occurs to evaluate student work and compute final grades.
Every year I feel like I am running a 10-month marathon, and the closer I get to the finish line, hurdles rise up from the ground, each one higher than the next.
This is the time when I speed read through student essays. Since they will not be returned, I don’t frequently stop to write pithy comments. Instead, I hunt for a thesis, transitions, and specific details. And still it takes several minutes per paper to grade them in this abbreviated fashion.
Once I’ve evaluated all student work, I agonize over determining final semester grades. Yes, the computer software automatically generates the numbers, but these numbers represent students’ academic lives.
If a student earns an 87.9 percent, she may deserve an ‘A’ over another student earning 89.9 percent depending on absences and participation.
If a student’s performance during the final month shows improvement, then it’s safe to assume if the semester went beyond another month, her work would continue at the higher level.
Once I’ve pressed “submit” for the last time, now I have to tidy up my classroom. After wiping the whiteboards with what’s called an eraser day after day, it’s time to use heavy duty cleaning solution to wipe away the ghosts of dozens of colored markings that haven’t quite vanished from the board, remnants of lessons gone by.
It’s time to turn off all computers and printers, wipe down the keyboards, clean the screens.
The “in” box on my desk is three in-boxes high and teeters to near collapse. It’s time to file away the leftover handouts in their proper folders in their proper drawer in their proper filing cabinet.
It’s time to move the tables and chairs within an equal distance of one another. Peculiar how students move tables forward when they sit down at them; if only I had an assistant to move them back on a daily basis. So I wait until the front row of tables have barely left me enough room to squeeze through to adjust them.
It’s time to dash off to Office Depot to replenish post-it pads, tacks, colored paper, staples, tape.
Then there are students who will come to my room on a student-free day to ask about their final grade, or email me inquiries about it, often multiple requests from the same individual.
And I’m still not done.
Now I have to get 12 signatures from eight different locations before I can leave work—keys, textbooks, attendance logs, computer, etc.—all turned in and accounted for. This reminds me of trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles, snail-like and bureaucratic. Just because teachers work with students does not mean that we are students.
Over the years I have suggested that this obstacle-course checkout system be simplified for teachers by having all the clerks and administrators who need to sign off stationed in one central location for one hour at different tables. Imagine how efficient this would be if it were done this way.
If administrators want to truly celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day, show it by making the last day of work less harried for teachers who have put in long hours. I’d trade my miniature fan with a “you are fan-tastic” saying on it any day for that.
By the time you read this, all the hurdles will have been jumped over, all the student grades inputted, the classroom spick-and-span. You can find me doing a crossword puzzle, still putting letters into boxes.