Today was the last day this week that my cooperating teacher will be here. I would say that it was a pretty standard day. There weren’t any major challenges, but there weren’t really many highlights, either.
Today, the Art I students began to carve their linoleum for the printmaking unit. This continues to scare me because I don’t trust some students with the sharp linoleum cutters. Although the students used them successfully for the eraser prints, I fear that there may be injuries with the linoleum as it’s harder to cut and more difficult to work with. Even students were commenting today that the linoleum was much more difficult than they were expecting and that they were having difficulties. I noticed one student with a drop of blood on his hand, but when I questioned him about it, he said that he was fine. There were several times when I jumped at a student to stop them from cutting because their hands were directly in front of the blades and moments when I caught a student grabbing a linoleum cutter from my teacher’s desk without being instructed about how to use it with the bench hook. I’m so scared that I won’t catch someone using the tools incorrectly at some point and slip, we’ve got blood. I don’t deal well with blood myself, so I’m worried to come across it.
Today, my teacher wanted to hand back several of the assignments that I’ve graded and entered into the gradebook. Unfortunately, I found that it’s much more difficult to remember to do something than I had thought. My teacher asked me to remind her to return the work back in 2nd Period, and in 3rd Period she mentioned that we had forgotten to do it. We did give back assignments in 3rd Period, 5th Period, and 7th Period, however. I was saddened at the reaction from the students, though. I know that some students do this, but it still broke my heart when I saw students check their grade, then throw the artwork in the trash can. Thankfully, some students asked if I would like to keep their artworks, which I was eager to accept so that I may have references for my own classroom, but it still made me sad. I can’t imagine not wanting my artwork. I’ve kept everything I’ve made over the years! I don’t like to think that students are producing artwork that they don’t want to keep.
Another thing that upset me was the fact that some students were unhappy with the grades that they received and some even addressed me about it again. In 3rd Period, two students addressed my cooperating teacher that on their color wheels, they shared paints and mixed the paints together, yet one student received a high A and the other received a high B. First off, I thought it was odd that the teacher didn’t comment on the students using the same paint. The objective of the color wheel was to allow students to mix their own paints in order to understand the mixing of colors. If these students shared paints, then they did not meet the objective. My teacher did respond,
“Well, I let Miss Brooks grade these, so we’ll have to look this over together. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”
Later, my cooperating teacher sat down with me and questioned me on the two color wheels. I had already looked them over for a second time at this point and I still felt confident with the grades that I had assigned. I explained to my teacher that I had taken a few points off one color wheel for a violet tint being too light and the violet shades for not being varied enough, and on the other artwork, the violet tint was also too light, but there were multiple shades that were not varied enough including the orange, blue, violet, and red-violet. I couldn’t explain how it happened if they had shared paint, but I could pick out three different shades in one wheel and not in the other. My cooperating teacher stood by my side again and told me to do whatever I felt was right. She told me to be prepared to talk with the students tomorrow, however, and explain my decision. I feel confident with my grading, but again, I don’t like this conflict with students.
The other instance in which a student was unhappy with the grade that I had assigned was not direct conflict, though. I asked my teacher if she would like me to grade the Painting II assignments during her conference period and she agreed. She asked me to create a rubric and grade them as she’s never done this project before and didn’t have a rubric supplied.
“This was just a filler project,” she explained.
This made me a bit uncomfortable. You can’t make a rubric after the students have completed the work. They need to know the criteria that they’ll be graded against before they turn in the work. They need to know the objectives and what’s expected of them throughout the assignment. You can’t penalize them for something they didn’t know about! With this knowledge, I created a rubric that heavily relied on technique in order to grade the artworks. I tried to keep all of the criteria fair and obvious, so as not to blindside the students. One of the criteria I included was effort, however, and this caused a problem for one student.
“Minus 5 for effort?” One student remarked after seeing her grade. “What the heck? I worked so hard on this thing! I put in a lot of effort!”
I had taken off these points for a variety of reasons, which I also wrote on the back of the assignment. There was at least one day in which the student did not work on her artwork at all. It was not in front of her at any point during that class period. I felt that this was not her best effort. Also, the artwork was incredibly mangled. It had been folded in half, the paper had lost its durability, and the edges were wrinkled, torn, and falling apart. These were the reasons why I decided to take points off for effort. Otherwise, the piece was strong and I know that she worked diligently with the oil pastels when she was working. She was one of the last students to complete her assignment. She still received an A on the assignment, so I don’t understand why she was so upset. At the end of the class period, she said that she hated her artwork and threw it in the trash. This really made me feel upset. There’s a lot of artwork sitting in the bottom of that trash can right now.
I would say that the rest of the day was fairly standard, but returning graded work had the largest impact on me. When I have my own classroom, I want to have rubrics for every assignment clearly given to the students beforehand. This will help me defend my grading choices and will allow the students to understand what they will be graded on before the grade comes. I will also want to make sure they understand the criteria throughout the assignment and will question them on the criteria daily, as a reminder to what they should be focusing on. I also want to grade the assignments more quickly. The Art I color wheels sat ungraded for about two weeks, and the color quizzes weren’t returned until three weeks after the students had taken them. I want to use my conference period or after-school time to grade work and return it to the students quickly. I want my students to receive feedback shortly afterwards and to know how they’re doing in the class. This will also help the classroom become more organized, as my cooperating teacher has work that needs to be graded scattered all about the room. I would also like to make it clear to my students that I would like to keep any work they don’t want. I don’t want to see any more artwork in the trash. I would like to keep the work for future reference, decoration, or examples. I did notice a few students question,
“What? You really want my artwork? But it’s not even that good!”
If that motivates them to keep trying or at least makes them feel better about their artwork, then that’s a positive moment. It will also allow me to receive free resources. There were definitely a lot of things in regards to grades that I reflected on today.