Last Tuesday, a few minutes before the midnight deadline, I turned in my last set of grades. Making all those judgment calls is the absolutely worst thing about teaching.
I’ve often envied my husband who teaches math. I should say taught math—it’s past tense for both of us. His grading system is clear, objective, much more easily justified than mine. There’s a right answer and a wrong answer.
Grading in Women’s Studies, Humanities, English is unavoidably subjective. I really try to be fair, but my biases inevitably creep in. How do I factor in class participation in a way that that’s fair, impartial? How do I justify a C grade for student X and a B for student Y? And then Student Z has been dealing with so many problems this semester; shouldn’t this be taken into account in some way??? I am so relieved that I never have to go through this again.
I may have made a real contribution to grade inflation this time around, but since I’m retiring I don’t have to worry that I am sliding down the slippery slope in which A becomes the default grade.
Teaching can be fun; evaluating students’ performance is always a headache. Ironically although I have spent decades evaluating students, I myself have never been evaluated. I have been teaching at the College since 1974 when I began as part-timer. I was hired full time in 1977, so have spent a total of 35 years teaching at the College and never has anyone entered my classroom to evaluate my teaching. Never has anyone evaluated my syllabi, course outlines and made suggestions for improvement.
I must admit it was kind of nice to close my classroom door and do whatever I wanted. Would I have been a better teacher if someone had visited my classes and evaluated my teaching? Probably. Thanks to an uncompromising union and an often cowardly management we have no meaningful evaluation system, and I have ended my teaching career without anyone EVER evaluating my classroom performance.