Chapter 2.8: Emoticons about Grading with Joy

Teaching Philosophy: GWENRE

I have this grading technique called GWENRE.
It’s my grading philosophy.
It’s also like the 🤯 word GENRE, but with a 🦆ing “W” in it.

G rade to
E ncourage individual growth,
N ormalizing only the minimum requirements for the course.
W rite clear notes that make sense to the student, then
R eview those notes individually, in groups, as a class; &
E ducate your students with your grading process,
rather than handing assignments back and “moving on,”
like the learning hadn’t taken us somewhere worth exploring.

When you’re a teacher with 😱 and 😰,
it can be difficult to grade with so much idealism.

Grading takes more out of you than it should;
But listen, 🧙‍♂️ & 🧚‍♀️: it’s still possible to re-frame this.

If you don’t believe me, consider this quote:

And I don’t know; maybe there are 👩‍🏫👨‍🏫 who went into teaching
because they thought it would be 🎉🎉 to earn a decent living
with an awesome schedule and 🕒😎 off.

After all, 🚨🚨 of the teachers in my state quit
within the first five years, so I assume it didn’t 🎢🎠 in some way.

But most of us became teachers because we 🧡💙 teaching.
Because we feel 💞💞 to teach
and, at least in my case, 💔💔 imagine any other job
bringing us the joy we find in the 👨‍🎓👩‍🎓.

No teacher who is “in it for the 💸💸”
would 📚📚 more than a year,
unless he or she was 💫💫 to do anything else.

And that’s the 🚨🚨, isn’t it?
Due to low pay, lack of respect, and unreasonable demands,
there are extreme teacher shortages in a lot of places.

Which means that you can practically 💫💫 off the street
and get yourself hired as the 👩‍🏫👨‍🏫,
regardless of your ability to either do or teach 👨‍🎓👩‍🎓.

Teaching can be a “🚨🚨” profession because,
even if nobody else will 💸💸 you,
a school will probably 📚📚 out of desperation.

And every time a veteran teacher says, “I’m not in it for the 💸💸,”
they’re buying into a 💔💔 system
that accepts 💫💫 by offering 🚨🚨 pay.

& various other 💩 all over the Internet,
about how teachers are underpaid, so that we 🤮, and we 🤡;

you can reframe your grading by skipping that 👿 place,
as much as I wish it were a 🤓 place,

& instead focusing on the extended conversation
between you, the teacher, and the student, who’s relying on your support.

Examples of Grading Fails

I have a story 🐱‍🚀🐱‍💻 as anecdotal evidence
of the power of grading re-framing;

a story 🐱‍🐉🐱‍👤 about a 4th year English professor
becoming an emergency credentialed SPED math high school teacher

and falling into belly-of-the-🐋🐋
grading situations like:

  • struggling to understand assignments, and let me 😵🧐 you, 
    long ago, in 🦄🐲 years, I had the same experience
    as a graduate student
    learning how to be a professor;
    and it shook more emotions out of me,
    and took more sleepness nights from me
    than any the other graduate students
    seemed to suffer
    at the time;
    learning how to teach
    continued 💎💍-mining
    👶👧-depth issues out of me for months,
    my life acting
    like a 🐧🐧, arms flailing everywhere.
  • then replacing that gaping chasm
    of 😭😰 with fear, a 🦍🐒 fear
    that you will be 🛒📉 again,
    that you will be 😭😰 again,
    like that traumatic echo from your first 🚗🌌,
    until you are 🐛🦋
    all the bins in your office
    in color-coded labels
    with Washi tape,
    glue sticks,
    & gel pens;
  • all-nighters looming over student essays, because
    I have important 3am 👩‍🏫👨‍🏫 to contribute
    to their 👨‍🎓👩‍🎓 experiences,
    like I’ve got authentic stuff to say
    and only 😀😉🤩🙃😑😶😥 to say it with,

and of course, I’ve endured four years of 🦃🦃
with double-spaced 🐛🐛essays on my list of ✅✅ tonight.

The Traditional Purpose of Grading

In all of this, I’ve remained 🤠🤣
because I’ve been trying to 💎💍 delicate thoughts about

how ✅✅ has nothing to do with
assigning a letter (a beef grade) to a 🐮👩‍🎓🐂👨‍🎓🐮…

Isn’t a “🥇,” “🥈,” and “🥉”
a different 👑—a different 🔬& 🔭—for every 👨‍🎓👩‍🎓?

🤸‍♂️🤸‍♀️, when I bring up this dilemma,
I often hear this 💯💯 counterargument:

Grading in 🚍👥👥👥👥👥👥👥🚍
is the process of applying 💯〽💯
of 👶👧👩👱‍♀️ levels of achievement in 👨‍🏫.

In other words, a 💯is a measure
of how well a 👨‍🎓👩‍🎓does

against the backdrop of 💯〽💯
expectations within a 👨‍🏫,

is essential 👔⚖👔
for the 👨‍🏫 + 👩‍⚖️👨‍🔬👨‍🚀relationship

to function in the
scheme of things.

The Counterargument to Tradition

I get where this thought process comes from…
How do we guarantee everyone is learning 👩‍⚕️👨‍🌾👨‍🚀 stuff,

without following lists of the 👩‍⚕️👨‍🌾👨‍🚀 stuff
they should be learning?—and without 💯

lining perfectly with the 💯〽💯 methods,
how can we guarantee no tampering with data?

Therefore, for the sake of

we should treat grading as a 🐮👩‍🎓🐂👨‍🎓🐮 process,
not as a 👑—variable, 🔬& 🔭—👨‍🎓👩‍🎓process.


But if we’re going to use K-12 education as a measure of how effective we’ll be in college, graduate school, or work, (all of which are potential fallacies, but now’s not the time for Pandora’s Box), then we need a grading system with some serious backbone to it,
thus Common Core,
thus standardized exams,
blah etc. blah.

Believe it or not, I respect this.

It’s neat to critically think about the education-society relationship
and what it says about greater values
within our 21st century community.

I respect this, and that’s why I have to
meticulously design my curriculum,

like a choreographer, dancing between
course requirements and teaching philosophies

to fulfill those standards,
while also keeping the love for learning alive,

and we don’t get paid for those choreographing hours.
Like… at all.

Thus teachers complain about grading,
loathe the extra labor,

socially die in 80-hour work weeks,
blah etc. blah, and society says,

“We get it; it’s a hot mess.
Someone should seriously look into fixing it.”

In the meantime, as a part-time educator—
which is a 500% saner a profession,

although my bills are tight—I’ve always thought,
grading can’t take the brunt of all this;

we can’t turn grading into a cauldron of hatred,
into the education industry’s latest dung-beetle-storm,

just because the top 2% have found a way to corrupt
the current educational system so deeply,

designed this ineffective juggernaut
of a standardized examination system,

then left the public opinion
frothing like angry wolves,

until everyone was distracted
by the sudden brilliance of a Celebrity President
and they turned to look the other away;

they turned to look the other way;

but we can’t let grading take the brunt of this:
I’ve watched too many colleagues turn

the grading process into negative-thinking
number-crunching about how they can

bury a student under 2% of incorrectness.
I’ve attended “normalizing sessions”

where graduate students argue
with adjunct professors and full-time faculty

about why one college essay is a passing portfolio,
and the other one requires the student to repeat

history’s same mistakes, and

grading can’t take the brunt of this;
how to build a bridge between

a student who craves the right learning,
how to build a bridge between

that student and the teacher,
the teacher who has standards meet,

the teacher who has a soul that feeds
off the joy of mentorship;

the teacher who has learning and emotional needs
as much as the businessmen, cash clerks and parents,

veterinarians and beekeepers
all reading newspapers at the Fresno Train Station

grading shouldn’t lose its purpose
as the delicate, science fiction instrument

that fine-tunes the mentor’s choreographics
with precious data, that assessment

where the student the teacher knows in real life
and the student the administration wants to assess

is cradled gently, on a cloud,
like on a puff of air,

between so many different variables,
never dismantling the child for the sake of ease.

When I’m gradingI’m thinking about this,
and I’m doing meaningful business like:

  • critically analyzing a student’s opinions, and how they defend those opinions, so I can instruct them how to write in a rich (i.e., fulfilling) and effective (i.e., convincing) way;
  • questioning a student’s opinions, if they haven’t questioned them already (i.e., making sure the hill they’re willing to die on represents a belief system they’re willing to die for);
  • writing comments on student papers that I intend to use to personalize their next in-class composition book entry, so I can guide them to that rich, effective, & value-driven life;
  • preparing things to offer students—either as a class, or as individuals, in casual one-on-one conversations that I’m mostly sure we’ll have—to help them fashion a reliable, thorough map of where they’re going: the industries and majors that pique their curiosity; the nooks and crannies their interests drive them to explore; the people they ought to Google; the books they ought to read; other college classes they ought to take.

I do these things not out of pay, (because the pay is insanely low,) but out of fulfilling a purposeful place in my community: to educate and counsel.

So I do as much as I need to effectively educate and counsel,
not to effectively quack, “That’s not my job,”
not to effectively quack, “That’s beyond my workload,”
and I consider anything beyond my hourly pay
a charity, like volunteer work I choose to offer
weekly to children who need extra care.

I like to think I teach for good reasons.

Grading shouldn’t take the brunt
of mid-management public education
taking advantage of teachers with good intentions,
taking advantage of teachers’ moral explanations
to live near poverty line
with graduate degrees, publications, honors,
and passion in spades;

grading should be an organic process
of the teacher sharing a conversation with the student,
with the administrator all but removed,
even the classroom walls
and the physical wall

the sharing of a virtual conversation
through an essay
a mathematical puzzle
or a computer theorum

so students can learn how the wondrous human brain
communicates in infinite ways
beyond standardized curriculum’s expectations.

This is the mindset I have when I grade,
when I listen to a student’s story
through their essays,

when I consider how to nurture their strengths,
smooth edges on weaknesses,
and reassure them, writing isn’t about grammar,

as I collect enough coin
from the Golden State shavings of taxes
to eat beef once a week, chicken other days,
with the occasional treat of beer and pizza,
just enough pay for happiness, then charity
for the hours worked;

as I get paid at the community college for 3 hours a week,
then work 15 hours a week,
or I offer 12 volunteer hours a week to the community—

Of course,

I’m glad to volunteer helping people who want to learn;
it doesn’t really matter if you’re my student,
a person confused on a side walk,
or a forum conversation;

and given I personalize my classroom instruction,
it’s mighty difficult to not care about my students
as people who need writing help.

I love classrooms on a macro level,
the way I love the people in Fresno
for being friendlier than the people in Irvine,
the way I love California for providing enough variables
in landscape and weather to build
entire fantasy world experiences
out of weekend trips, the way I love

the autism gene for making me
hypersensitive enough to appreciate
my five senses in a unique way
as I stand in the mists of a waterfall.

I love students and the teaching process wholesomely,
and so if my grading is not equally joyful,

bursting-at-the-seams purposeful
to the point I can re-frame all those extra work hours as charity,

then my grading technique must not be working.
This is the only way I know how to grade.

Watching Right Now

The DNA computers at 6:45 was crazy interesting. 🤩


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