Monday, November 29, 2010

The Joy of Grading

This is my first long-term subbing assignment, and I'm discovering that it's a weird cross between being part of faculty and an academic culture, and being considered a warm body. I was really delighted to be offered this position for a couple of reasons: For one thing, it's lovely getting a regular paycheck for something for which I'm actually trained; additionally, it's lovely being able to be in the same classroom for an extended period of time, getting to know the same students for more than a day, when as a short-term substitute teacher, one is likely to be (although not always) the target of Students Behaving Badly. I got to talk to Mrs. T. before she went on maternity leave, ascertaining the lay of the land by being introduced to the students and meeting other faculty and staff. This makes the job a heck of a lot smoother, especially when the (even temporarily) outgoing teacher can let the students know that just because she's being replaced does not mean that my discipline and grading don't carry weight. Not for nothing, it was very helpful for Mrs. T. to tell her students that I would in fact be grading their work; it might not eliminate their attempts to do lesser work, but it lessens their attempts to see me as someone who's just a warm body.

The Special Education teacher who co-teaches the third period inclusion class with me is also very supportive, helping me when I'm unsure how to reach the class, which is great because I'm not trained in special education; Mrs. M., the other 9th grade ELA teacher also periodically checks on me, passes off helpful handouts, answers necessarily banal questions to which I wouldn't have the answers but which I'm sure are still annoying. The secretaries similarly have been exceedingly patient and helpful, and I must remember to bring them something small before I leave. (Everyone knows that secretaries actually run the schools; they know everything and if you irritate them, they can make your life difficult, to say the least.)

Meanwhile I have to deal with the things a regular teacher would have to deal with, like grades and attendance. Mrs. T. had given me her user name and password, which would allow me not only to submit grades (because I'm responsible for grading, of course, and need to add the assigned work to the gradebook), but to take attendance as well. However, she had shown me how to access the gradebook from the vantage point of the parents' logon; the classroom management (teachers') logon is a different URL entirely. I thought she'd given me the wrong user name and password, so I e-mailed her a week or so ago, but haven't heard from her yet. Meanwhile I had a quickly growing stack of papers (some of which went before Mrs. T. went on maternity leave) which I've begun to grade, and I couldn't do anything with them: I couldn't put the grades into the gradebook, but because the room is so full of books and other classroom equipment, I had nowhere to actually put the assignments until I could get to the gradebook. Additionally, I had students asking me what assignments they were missing or asking what their grades were, and I couldn't tell them. And I had to have the secretaries manually print the attendance sheets so I could take attendance the old-fashioned way, and then have a student run down the attendance printouts at the end of the day.

Today was just a busy day as I tried to solve a multitude of problems: We got some more snow last night that, by this morning, still wasn't cleared, even on the main highway that I drive to school, so getting to school took a bit longer. I had to make a few hundred copies before first period of a grammar worksheet that the students would need for the week; the copy machines were out most of last week, and I wasn't in on Wednesday, so I couldn't make copies before the holiday break. I didn't get a chance to solve my login problems before the start of classes, so during my prep period I ran down to the Main Office, asked one of the secretaries to whom I could speak, located the woman who gave me the correct URL of the site that would allow me to access Mrs. T.'s gradebook (the site is not linked to the school's website, of course; this was the link Mrs. T. had accidentally pointed me to), and ran back across the building to my room (because our rooms were on opposite sides of the building, of course). I was told to look for "Educator Login. There was no "Educator Login.: There was "Employee Login" button, though. Well, that didn't work, so I traipsed across the building again and conveyed the problem; the woman looked at the website and said, Oops, it's actually "Classroom Management" tab.

Fortunately, this worked, and I managed to submit three sections' worth of grades into the gradebook before I left for the day, and a fourth at home. I still have three more sections' of grades to enter, but I'll be able to finish that work by tomorrow evening, just in time for the mid-term grades to be due on Wednesday. I still have a rather large stack of student essays to read from last week, but the large majority of backlog will have been taken care of.

Of course, I was also told I'd have a temporary district e-mail address, and that hasn't happened yet, but I"m not sure I want to push that issue right now.

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