You can tame report cards, and it’s not terribly hard.
By Rachel Wilser
Well, teachers: you’ve (probably) made it through one quarter of the school year. If you’re a school on quarters, you likely either just finished, or are coming up on, the first quarter of school. Which means, among other things, report cards. Report cards can inspire some strong feelings, but in most schools they’re a necessary evil — whether you assign letter grades, effort grades, conduct grades, or something else it can be overwhelming to prepare for and organize your report cards. Between calculating grades and writing thoughtful comments for 18-28 students it’s enough to make even veteran teachers crazy. The good news? You can tame report cards. The better news? It’s not terribly hard. Read on for my five best tips to get your report cards done on time without letting them take over your life.
- Grade with a plan.
One of the easiest things to do is to continually shove assignments that need to be graded deeper and deeper into your teacher bag, or farther underneath piles on your desk. I cannot be clear enough about this: THAT. IS. THE. WORST. IDEA. Do not under any circumstances attempt any version of this plan.
Sometimes your administrators might require you to grade a certain number of assignments per week, or certain amount of assignment types during the quarter. While this can sound cumbersome, set a goal for yourself if your administrators don’t set a requirement for you. Maybe you want to grade one effort and one content assignment per week. Or maybe you want to take three math grades per week. Do whatever feels manageable to you, but I strongly encourage you to set a goal so that you have a variety of different types of grades, taken over the course of a quarter.
Also, make sure that you set aside time each week to grade. Whether you do it on Friday nights watching Netflix or Wednesday afternoons during your planning period, you need to schedule time each week to grade and record your grades.
- Mark when grades are due.
When you find out when grades are due, this date should go immediately on your calendar in giant bold letters doodled in highlighter. I mean, maybe this is a slight exaggeration. But only slight. The day grades are due is super important.
- Calculate number grades first.
I personally think that it’s better to calculate number grades first. Sometimes you have a comment in mind for a student that doesn’t necessarily line up with the number grade. Maybe they struggled with content earlier in the quarter, but it was balanced out. Overall, it just generally saves times if you calculate final grades (or have a pretty good idea of what final grades will be) before you move on to writing comments.
- Generate comments in the last three weeks of the quarter.
Okay, okay. This sounds like the opposite of the last thing I just said, but stick with me here. You don’t want to be writing 75 report card comments the night before report cards are due. You may have to go back and revise some of them, but at least the majority of them will be finished and you can tinker and adjust as necessary.
- Compile all comments and report cards BEFORE the deadline/due date.
All right, maybe this sounds obvious, but I’m saying it because it always happens to someone and I don’t want it to be you. More and more schools and/or school systems are moving towards digital grade tracking and digital report cards, and while digital tracking systems can make communication easier, they can also buckle under the pressure. What I mean here is that when an entire faculty is attempting to finalize or upload report cards, it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where either the system crashes or upload times become really slow. You can easily avoid this problem by having your report cards and comments ready one or two days before the deadline. Submitting before the deadline allows you to relax and avoid most technical delays.
Report cards can be an overwhelming task, but planning ahead can mitigate your stress level around the end of quarter (especially since quarters usually end around a holiday break). By planning backward and dedicating time each week to grading, you’ll be prepared for the end of the quarter and ready to focus on actually teaching.
Rachel Wilser has spent the better part of a decade in classrooms around the country — in private, public, charter, elementary, and middle schools. Now, she chases twins and drinks coffee while planning her return to the classroom.
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