As the First Quarter Closes, I’m Beat
Our first quarter ended on Friday and I am only now recovering from an exhausting final week. Starting the previous Friday, the moment the bell rang at 2:05, I was inundated with students asking to check their grades, deliver overdue work, seek extra credit opportunities, or plead their cases. Despite bending my no late work edict to ease students into the first marking period, and then setting a deadline of last Wednesday for late assignments, I was getting work right up through Halloween afternoon.
Atop that, my sophomores wrote Performance Based Assessment essays, summing up their work on Oedipus and the tragic hero. They had Monday and Wednesday in class to read up on Joan of Arc and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perse to see which one most closely fit Aristotle’s definition of a tragic hero. Two classes and four evenings to prepare, leading me to anticipate them sitting at the laptops, ready to strut their stuff. Instead, most of the essays demonstrated little preparation or consideration, with precious few actually connecting the historic figure’s traits to the definition. On the other hand, most delivered far more interesting introductions so at least they were getting that message.
My Honors juniors delivered their pumpkins this past week, either depicting a moment from The Crucible or how a character would carve their pumpkin. I was very pleased with the creativity demonstrated although it meant there were four dozen pumpkins and accompanying essays to grade.
Then there were my Creative Writers, who polished their fan fiction short stories and delivered them for grading. Here, they ran the gamut although the good ones were very good and entertaining.
As you can imagine, I’ve been a grading machine for over a week with precious little time devoted to actual planning, which now has to become the focus of the next week.
Meantime, our department participated in an Open House for the five feeder middle schools and despite the disappointing turnout, we were prepared and engaged those who came by to see what we had to offer incoming students.
Yesterday, we had a half-day so the building could be readied for voting. It also allowed the teachers some professional development time. Our department sat down and did rangefinidng in preparation of the PARCC rubric being our standard. PARCC is the Common Core testing which replaces Maryland HAS testing as the benchmark for graduation. We’ve started using the rubric for reading and writing but spent yesterday calibrating our scoring so students will receive consistent grading regardless of teacher. It was a fascinating exercise as we read five 9th grade essays and debated our judgments. We were largely all on the same page but where we differed led to an interesting discussion over how best to interpret the exact wording and meaning of the rubric. I suspect teachers and students will both benefit from this.
It’s been a packed first quarter, leaving us uniformly beat but feeling better about this year than last which I take as a very good sign.