First of all, you should know that I don’t even believe in letter grades. They are generally an archaic and ineffective way of communicating useful information about our children’s education. They are subject to much interpretation, which is often very misleading.
We don’t even question the validity of letter grades, instead we blindly continue to accept them as a fact of life.
Fortunately, more and more schools are getting creative about developing more authentic and qualitative methods of assessing learning.
Anyhow, sorry about the little rant. I could go on and on but let’s get back to it – grades obviously do exist. They are a “necessary evil” in the vast majority of schools in America. So how can we help?
- Quick overhaul: Bring everything home from your locker or desk. Everything. Go through every single paper, material, book, gum wrapper and ask, “why does my child have this?” Then, sort it into the following categories with them:
- Recycle or trash it if there is no good reason for keeping.
- Keep, but archive at home (usually sentimental things or papers you might need later in the semester)
- Keep, but put back into the correct folder for safekeeping.
- Keep, but put it in a pile of things that must be done. In other words, if an action needs to be taken, make 1 pile of those things. This includes homework that must be done, study guides, project checklists, things to be turned in, etc.. DO NOT put this pile away or these things will be forgotten about. Keep it handy and visible so these things can get done. Consider an inbox system.
- I do overhauls (aka “reset”) with most of my students every week or two.
- Grade check: Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how infrequently parents and students check online grades (and how infrequently some teachers update them! But that’s a different story.) So check the grades and print them so you can address anything that needs addressing (missing or incomplete work, things that can be redone, look for patterns that can give you useful insights, etc..) Bookmark the grade login page so you have easy access.
- Advocate: Many kids are afraid of this until they do it a few times, then they get used to it quickly because it is so much easier to ask for help than they thought. Advocate in any way you can; email, in-person, written notes, office hours. Advocacy just means asking for help. And trust me, my students tell me over and over that reaching out to teachers proactively is one of the most beneficial skills they have ever learned to do! I do not say this lightly.
Now get to it. Then go have some free time that is truly free!