Tag Archives: finals

Teaching Tuesday: Final grading stress

The end of the school year is here. With it comes much cleaning and even more rejoicing. Unfortunately, it also brings in a TON of grading! And not just the run of the mill essays or vocabulary assignments I hadn’t gotten around to yet, but the dreaded F word: FINALS!

It is a requirement at my high school that all students take a final or do a final project that is worth 20% of their overall semester grade. As a rule I give my film lit seniors an essay final. My AP juniors and seniors complete a final project which requires them to create something based on one of the books they read for class, write an essay explaining their project and then give a presentation of the project. While I don’t technically have a final “test” to grade, what I end up with is about 100 essays (and 75 projects) to grade.

This is enough to make my stress level rise a few degrees, but what really kicks it into overdrive is that seniors take their finals on Wed and Thurs so that they can finish up a day before everyone else. This in itself is not a huge issue. However, since graduation is on Friday, all teachers with seniors have to have every single thing, including finals, graded before they leave school on Thursday evening. This means that teachers who give their seniors a final on the last block on Thursday have to stay after school and grade them all right then.

The administration’s argument is that they need to immediately know if a student did not pass and will not be able to participate at graduation. However, it’s not just the seniors in danger of failing whose grades must be done, because they also need to calculate final grades for Valedictorian, Salutatorian and Top 10. Since my AP kids usually make up about 90% of the top 10, I have to get those grades done ASAP.

Thankfully this year both of my senior class finals took place on Wednesday, so I got a bit of “extra” time to get all 60 of them graded. Still, that was 60 essays to grade in 48 hours (while still teaching the entire day on Thursday). I was WORN OUT when I left the building.

On the plus side, that meant that I had until Tuesday at 4pm to get grades for my 40 juniors done. So, I could shove everything of theirs that still needed grading off in order to conquer my senior piles.

As usual, I got it all done. And so far I’ve only had one student email me to ask if there was any way I would bump her grade up 2% so she could get straight A’s this grading period (the answer was no).

Now I plan to take a few days off from anything school related before jumping in to doing lesson plans for the College Board’s summer AP institutes.

I truly wish the myth of teachers getting 8-12 weeks off in the summer was real. My guess is I’ll get a week or two of no actual school work. I’m going to guess maybe a day or two where I have no administrators, counselor or student who emails me with something I have to respond to. So far we’ve been on break for one week and I have yet to have one of those days!

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Teaching Tuesday: Finals week

My school is on a block 4 schedule. Five years ago, when I was getting my master’s degree in education, I looked at different types of scheduling as part of a massive research paper. During my research, I found out that of the 348 public high schools in the state, we were one of 13 schools in the state still on block 4. With the start of this year, that number has dropped to single digits. Our school librarian believes we might be the last holdout.

I am actually not a huge fan of block 4 scheduling for a myriad of reasons I don’t have the time to delve into in this current blog. The only real positive about this schedule right now is that this is our finals week, which means that at the end of this week I am halfway through with my current group of students. Considering all of the whining and complaining they’ve been doing alongside the drama they are creating over a group project (which they had the option and time to do on their own), I am really ready to wrap this grading period up.

Sure, when we get back from fall break they’ll all be right back in my classroom, but hopefully the marvelous two weeks we get off for fall break (we are also on a balanced calendar), will help cool some tempers, stop some fussing and generally make me remember that at one point I really liked this group.

First I have to make it through finals though.

It’s not so much the finals themselves that make me slightly crazy. I use the same basic final each year–I just tweak it based on the amount of material we covered and the examples I used. In my Film Literature class, one section of their final requires them to watch a 30 minute clip of a movie and then analyze it for all the elements of film we’ve learned about over the course of the grading period. Every year I switch it up with a new movie clip, so that keeps it kind of fun for me.

There are two things that make finals a stressful time for me. The first is the schedule changes that happen. Rather than just keeping our already really long blocks just as they are–they are 85 minutes each–final blocks are 2 hours long. Since students only have 4 classes at a time, they take two of their finals on Thursday and two on Friday. In order to make sure there are 4 solid hours for testing each day, the other two blocks have to be shortened and we have to get rid of our student resource time, which just happens to be the time my newspaper class meets. So not only do I lose two days of class time with my newspaper kids, but since I teach the same class 1st and 4th block, tomorrow I will have one group an hour and the other for two. Sure, I’ll get the opposite of that on Friday, but for my 1st block class, they’ll have already taken the final, so I have a full hour and not much for them to really do. On top of this, to make the testing times work, instead of going to blocks 1-4 in order like we always do, tomorrow we’ll start in block 2 (which the kids will forget), test in block 2, then go to block 4 (which messes up everyone’s normal lunch time and therefore causes chaos) and then finish the day with block 3. Even after having this schedule for about 7 years it still confuses me.

Aside from the schedule shift, the other truly annoying part of finals is the rapidity in which the kids expect the finals to be graded. At our school, all the work they’ve done for the grading period is 80% of their grade. The finals they take in our classes make up the other 20%. Far too many kids slack off during the year and then they expect to pull some Hail Mary magic on the final in order to save them from failing. This is particularly frustrating for me as nearly all of my students are seniors and failing their senior English class means not graduating. The week of finals I get a steady stream of kids asking me what percentage they have to get on the final in order to get their desired grade in my class (and for far too many of them, that grade is a D).

The minute they finish taking the final they start asking when I’ll have them graded. If I don’t get them graded before break (and I almost never do as we have until the Tuesday after break to turn grades in), I get emails over break asking about their grades. I get their full on sob story as to why they so desperately need to know their grades. Interestingly, they rarely elaborate on why it took them 9 weeks to actually get concerned over what grade might fill in that blank on their report card. Nor do they comment on all the 0’s in my grade book from the assignments they never bothered to do.

As excited as I am for the start of break, I am dreading the next two days of classes. I hope we all make it out in one fairly sane piece.

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