Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cartouche, Cartouche!

Another batch - just finished on Friday, the end of the marking period. And there's a handful of stragglers who are doing GORGEOUS (but slow) work that will be in my room during lunch and study hall time Monday/Tuesday to finish, so they can get graded before their grades go on the report cards Wednesday morning. My mom used to say about me: "slow as molasses in January, moving uphill..." so I guess I should be more understanding of these kids, but NO. I always meet my deadlines. They just don't seem to 'get' it.

Then there's the lovely 6th grade student, a girl who came with her family from Mexico 4 years ago not speaking a word of English. She's totally fluent now, as matter of fact no longer qualifies for any ESL time, a hard worker, really sweet, and I've got nothing bad to say about her. BUT. And it is a big BUT: she went with her family to Mexico for more than a MONTH and just got back this past week. With the Christmas vacation in the middle of her trip, she still missed at least 3 weeks of school. We had just begun the project when she left, and she came back as everyone was finishing and starting something new. The first day she was missing I thought she was out sick. On the second absence, I asked the other kids, "is she OK?" and they told me she was in Mexico.

And while I'm betting she told her homeroom teacher (who in our 6th grade setup is also her social studies, ELA, and science teacher) and I'm sure she told her math teacher (the only other 6th grade teacher; they switch for social studies and math and keep the homeroom teacher for all other academics), and while I'm sure they gave her work to do to keep up during her absence, it didn't occur to her to tell me she was going. And the homeroom teacher certainly didn't pass on the info to me. I don't know if the student told the music teacher, or the teacher of whatever other 'special' she has right now. (I see the 6th graders twice for 40 minutes each, in a 6 day cycle, as does the music teacher. But they also have Home and Careers, and Tech, and other stuff I can't recall, each daily for a 10 week cycle.)

So am I the only one of her teachers confused what to do about grades? I haven't heard a 'peep' about it from anyone else! When the girl came to art this past Monday, and still had to prepare the sheet rock for carving, I gave her a set of hieroglyphics and newsprint to take home and prepare her design so that she could immediately start carving in the next art class. She didn't do it. So she had art again on Friday and spent the class doing what she should have done at home. I explained how upset I was that she hadn't told me. I would/could have given her an alternate assignment to do in Mexico - she could have done a fabulous art journal. She said "I'll get this done". She now has her design drawn and transferred onto her sheet rock, and the marking period is officially over.

But really - she can come in during lunch on Monday and engrave the lines. She can put a coat of paint on it during study hall on Tuesday. But it will lack the relief carving of all of the other student work. Is it fair to give her a grade on something done quickly, even if it looks nice (which it will; she is meticulous)? OR conversely, is it fair to penalize her for a choice her parents made?
The grades are numerical grades that are entered electronically. I can give her an incomplete but she'd still have to make it up, and unfortunately she is generally not able to stay after school.
What would YOU do?

Here's a closeup of one of the works shown above:


  1. I would give her a grade based on the other work she did in the term and not add or take away for this assignment. She isn't the one who choose to go for a full month. Someone should have told you she was going to be gone that long but I can't say I'm too surprised that she didn't think to tell don't think of things like that.

    1. I'd give it to her as long as you're confident she understands that next time she needs to communicate better with her teacher-- a good life lesson for her. I would imagine she's so swamped with work that she'll beg her parents not travel like that again.

  2. They are amazing! Truly! It is so difficult with the coming and the going! A LOT of kids do this in our district. . . Some even completely move for just 6 months. Most go to Puerto Rico for a month then come back. Really? I never penalize them because there is so much going on in our grading system and in their life that none of anything really seems fair anymore. I would love for everything to be fair but it is not in the cards for this year as our paper trail is miles and miles long. We need to do something to address this situation of LONG vacations but the parents who do this seem to not be concerned with grades, I have no idea what would motivate them to keep continuity in their child's life and learning!

  3. I am so grateful that in my work with students I don't have to give grades. It is so freeing to be able to just focus on the creative process.

  4. One of my students was pulled in the middle of the December to travel back to the DR with her parents and I have not seen her back yet. Her older (1/2) sister went to stay with a grandparent in another state so she has missed the same amount of time. I don't know what the other teachers are doing with grades but I know they are concerned about getting them caught up. I'm glad I don't have to do grades and try to figure it out! I can understand wanting to keep them connected with their culture and family where they came from but I can't understand missing that much time DURING the school year!

  5. We have a lot of kids who take off two to four weeks or so to go to Mexico. After 10 days, they are dropped from our roll. They have to reenroll when they return. I just move on like they are any other new student.

  6. this happens to me all the time. since my class is only a semester long by the time my students get back from Mexico or El Salvador my class is almost over. I usually don't give them a zero for what they missed. I do however give them a small project to do over winter break but the kids never get them done. I would just let her move onto the next project and give her a quarter grade based on what she had before she left... it usually works for me. Hope this helps.

  7. I feel your frustration Phyl! I can top that though. Today I prepped for a class which I was expecting right after lunch. 26 first graders were due to walk in the door. Imagine my surprise when 22 third graders showed up instead. Oh, they forgot to tell me they changed the schedule! I feel like throwing in the towel after a day like today. As far as grading goes, I'd go with an incomplete. How can you expect to do otherwise. Good luck.