Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bad Reputation

I have already managed to give myself a bad reputation. It took very little, really. All I had to do was grade a few papers and, BAM, I'm ruined.

It's not quite that bad really. There are lots of girls here who like me quite a bit. I think.

Here's what went down:
A teacher asked me to teach a series of lessons. I said yes. I suggested we give a practice assignment that asked students to read an article related to class and respond to it, using paraphrased passages from the source material and including in-text (parenthetical) citations. I offered to grade the papers too. I created a rubric for the students so they would know exactly what we expected. We read the article and discussed it. I taught a lesson on paraphrasing. I went over the grading criteria. Then, we gave them about 4-5 days to write their 1-3 paragraph responses to our writing prompt.

When I graded them, about 80% failed the assignment. Totally fell on their faces failed. Why? Perhaps they didn't ever (not one time!) refer to the article we read together. This meant, of course, that they didn't paraphrase a thing or practice using citations. That's a fail.
Perhaps they summarized the article and never wrote a single word responding to the prompt, that asked for some commentary/analysis. That's a fail.
Perhaps their writing was so bad, so riddled with errors, that it was clear they didn't even bother to spell check. That's a fail.

So, the teacher and I decided to give them another chance. Perhaps they didn't understand what I had taught them (although several students did, in fact, ace this assignment, so I don't know). Perhaps the instructions weren't clear (but I really, really think they were). We let them do it again. For full credit. We gave them another week.

This time around, almost all of the students who bothered to re-do the work got and A or a B. Why? Did I re-teach the content? Nope. Did I dumb it down? Nope. This time, the girls followed directions, took themselves seriously, and did the job they should have done in the first place.

But now. Now the little darlings have spread the word. The librarian is a hard grader. She's mean. She's unfair. She's too tough. We don't want her involved.

On Friday, the junior US History teacher and I are sitting down together to read 50-point research proposals that his students have had a month to write. We've team-taught a series of lessons, presented resources, given examples, and gone over the rubric. Today, they told him they are scared of me. They don't want me to see their papers. They heard this from the sophomores who failed the assignment that was grade by me. The sophomores didn't mention that they got to re-do it, or that they didn't complete the assignment the first time around. They just mentioned how uncool it is that the librarian has anything to do with anything.


Some of the girls like me. I know they do. They've told me.
Lots of the girls respect their tough teachers. I hear them talk about it. The toughest ones are the favorites.
It just takes time, I suppose. I have to get used to the fact that I'm in a new place where there's a status quo. Who am I to barge in and expect people to cite their sources? Who am I to waltz in here and think that college-preparatory students ought to be preparing for college level work?

I would have thought the same thing at their age. And it's not that it hurts my feelings exactly (I learned many, many years ago not to let students anywhere near hurting my feelings). It's just....what? It's frustrating to think that somewhere down the line they've gotten the impression that a job done should get the same credit as a job well done. When did that happen?

The US History in question just stopped in to tell me that he hopes I know how much he's looking forward to grading these proposals together. He says it's a good thing they're scared of me, because the girls are more motivated to do well on this paper than they have been on anything else he's assigned this year. He says that being afraid of me doesn't need to turn into disliking me. They'll get to know me and then they'll love me, like they love the other toughest graders.

I suppose he's right, and I appreciate that he said so. In the mean time, I'll try to smile a lot.

1 comment:

JC said...

Remember: Rome wasn't built in a day. Keep your chin up!