Give Them All A’s
By Bonhomme Richard,
today at 6:07 pm
today at 6:07 pm
This is also post from our CTU Facebook page. I originally posted this on May 7, 2020, 7 weeks into the Covid-19 break from school. I was irritated by the number of teachers who had managed to make a global pandemic about themselves. “Well that child didn’t do work for me the whole year.” “They haven’t shown up to a single online class.” So this was the scolding I wrote.
In the past several weeks I’ve heard enough about grade integrity to last me a lifetime. We are living through an epidemic, a pandemic. The PLAGUE is on the streets of Chicago. If we went back to school now, we’d be sucking a murky miasma of invisible killer goo into our lungs. We aren’t, and that’s not only a good thing, it’s proper, prudent, and responsible. We should all be thankful that we have intelligent enough leaders to see that social distancing is the right thing to do. And we’re getting paid. We aren’t the ones putting our lives on the line. We can’t say that about all our students’ parents, grandparents, siblings, and extended family.
Raising a child’s grade isn’t going to cause you physical pain, and any ethical pain you think it will cause you is d-r-a-m-a. Raising a child’s grade isn’t going to make them eligible for a better job than the one you think they deserve. Raising a child’s grade isn’t going to make college available to those who weren’t going to go to college. Raising a grade might, however, brighten a child’s day and make them want to try a bit harder when they do get back to school. It probably won’t, but it might, and we are in the profession of what might be. We are investors in the future. We have many failures, but many more successes.
Lowering a child’s grade might sap their spirit. It might be the final straw of any given day that wrecks that day, or that week, or month. Lowering a child’s grade might mean the difference of which college accepts them. And you’re going to stand there and complain that this child isn’t doing the work for you that you came to expect of them? Well you aren’t there, pushing and cajoling and supporting them like you usually are. You’re actually going to stand there and complain because they aren’t doing any work at all? Who is there to drive them? If online college program graduation rates are an accurate indicator, then adults don’t do too well with remote learning, either. Also, consider that your work might not be that important. It might be that there are other pressing concerns in that child’s life. It might not be, but you’re going to stand there in judgment when you might not have all the pertinent information?
Have you run the numbers? Have you? The infection rate, the morbidity rate, the mortality rate, not to mention the merely maimed? When we do get back to school, it’s likely that one of those students’ chairs will be empty. How will that make you feel to know that your last act towards them was to maintain your grade integrity? Will that help you sleep better? It may be that your student was busy caring for the next door neighbor’s kids while that adult was working. It may be that your student was thrust into the role of an adult. It may be that they were burying a parent. It’s likely that your school is going to be hiring new faculty, or staff, or both. I can guarantee that position will be filled, even if it was yours. And if so, soon enough, you will be largely forgotten. If the last thing you do in your life is to give a student a better grade than the one they earned or the one they deserved, then that might be the one generous act of your life that is remembered by some.
I’ve been speaking as a high school teacher, but I have not spent my entire career in the high schools. My first ten years were spent in elementary and middle schools. I know my concerns there were different than my concerns now. The role of an elementary school teacher during a pandemic should not be that of an educator, though that is what they trained for, signed on for, and desire more than anything to get back to. But I can recall wanting more time to connect with home and caring less about a specific assignment. Grades being more representative and less specific, I always assigned more work than I could possibly enter into a grade book. I know I’d want more time to call home, check to see if my child (that’s right, MY child) was safe, healthy, well-fed, and feeling secure and loved. I know some of them would be scared right now. The world is telling them to be afraid. Their parents are acting differently, odd. And some of them are alone. I remember a young man, aged 11, who got up every morning and prepared breakfast for two younger siblings, before the three of them walked to school. And that without a plague. How much more difficult would that be now? But grade integrity, right?