I just finished all my grades and narrative reports for my students. It’s a lot of work (hours and hours and hours), but actually I’m glad that we teachers need to create narratives to accompany each grade. It affords me an opportunity to look at each of my students holistically, not just academically. I have to gauge their progress and their challenges. I have to figure out what strategies would help them move forward. I have to look at how they interact with others and what I see as their needs. I’m pretty good about staying on top of all this through the year, but occasionally, while writing these at semester’s end, a student will appear to have fallen a bit through the cracks so this process becomes a bit of a push to focus energy in her direction.
Writing these narratives takes a great deal of time (I even had to miss my Qigong class this weekend because I needed to get them done), because they need to be diplomatically articulated so that the words don’t seem disproportionately harsh or unduly critical or misleading or excessively exuberant. I need to sound literate, genuine, honest, and aware in my observations. This process actually softens any teacherly frustrations and grounds me in the bigger picture around any particular student’s issues and how I might be a better support.
These grades and narratives are all done online and this morning they went “live.” During break, right before my first Humanities class, I saw the students get onto the server to see what they got. Most shared their grades with one another, shouting across the room with enthusiasm or exasperation. “Yep I knew it,” JM said. ” I knew he was going to give me an A in Spanish! I knew he was going to count that extra credit.”
But none of them even bothered reading the well thought out, attentively prepared, carefully crafted narratives I had written or ones that any of their other teachers had put together. Not a single one. They only were interested in their grades. They scrolled through each of their classes focused only on a few letters of the alphabet with plus or minus signs after them. I began to wonder how much their parents actually pay attention to what any of us teachers have written about their children. The parents do read them, right?
It’s a good thing that the writing of these narratives helps me to hone my craft as a teacher. It’s a good thing that the very act of writing forces me to take a critical look at each and every one of my students— recognizing their gifts and specifying strategies to address their challenges. That should be reward enough. But still–!?
I will have my students read these narratives with their parents as an assignment. I hope they will all do their homework.