Entering the Grade


Here at the end of another semester I am settling into the moment that I have sometimes come to dread. Entering the final, permanent grades on behalf of a group of hopeful college students is not easy. And, to be honest, it comes with a handful of emotions that I have never really been able to reconcile.

I have many students for whom it is very easy for me to type in an A for outstanding work, but it is never easy to give others an F for unacceptable work.  I have a friend who has always reminded me, “We teachers are just the calculators.  The students are the final grade makers.”  That is certainly true and it does help to remember it, but it does not make it any less difficult.  I thought it would get easier as the years in the classroom passed, but after more than a decade of it, I can tell you, if anything, it has become, not really more difficult, but certainly more painful.

In one respect it is all about points.  Every project has a set number of points that are equal to an A, B, C, D, and F; and the student entering my courses embark upon this quest to fulfill as many of those points as possible by the end of the semester.  Simple enough – you generate enough points and you generate a good course grade for yourself.  I am just a calculator, and in the final analysis those points are all that really counts.

But then, the “messiness” of getting to know these people comes into play.  Every single person who enters my classroom is, well, a person with a name.  They have their good days and bad, their trials and tribulations, their families and jobs and dreams, their strengths and weaknesses…their lives.  I have had students who are moms and employees and wives; those who have struggled with addictions and abuse and anxiety; happy people and grieving people; quiet ones and hilarious ones.

No student is a robot, but this is the time that I in some ways wish they were.  It is the time where I have to grade them, these people I have come to know and admire; many of them just like me, who want to become the best teachers in the world, who want to make an eternal difference, and who want their students to learn so much that they become outstanding in their field. Whether they end my courses with an A or something far less than that, I know their names and very often know their stories.

Teaching is not for the faint of heart and entering the grade, it’s the toughest part.