Passing the Buck but the Buck is HEAVY

This is part III of my reflection on Ungrading my classes this semester. Part I is here, and Part II here.

Last week, the devil demanded his due. It was progress report time. I pledged to let students reflect and grade themselves and to resolve the grades posted through conversation. But I didn’t realize one thing:

These conversations are exhausting.

It took a lot of time to cajole students to consider follow-up questions and to examine evidence from their writing to justify their scores. A. Lot. Of. Time.

I’m definitely picking my battles. Some students I might not have agreed with, but if they made their case and weren’t way off what I would have said the mark was, then I let it go. In most cases where I couldn’t in good conscience do that, after I asked them to consider the exemplars we studied and look at specifics in their own writing, students changed their evaluations of their own writing. Afterwards, I tried to be encouraging, reminded them this was all process and that they should take this reflection as a foundation to build on.

I did have one conference with a student through my online office hours and it seemed so much better to be having the conversation live. I don’t know how the student felt, but we were able to dynamically look at the writing, I could help direct her attention in real time, and she settled very quickly on a score that seemed reasonable and based on the evidence we had just looked at in her writing.

But there is no way I could do this with all two hundred students.

I remember at one point in my AP classes (back when classes took place in classrooms), I set aside a chunk of time to have one-on-one conferences with students about their writing. It took all week to schedule them all, the meetings were really rushed and did not feel as fruitful as this one-on-one discussion I had during office hours last week.

Maybe, as I’d originally planned, it doesn’t have to be everyone…but darn it, I think everyone would benefit from this process. Even if it’s not everyone who goes through a “live” conference, it still means rethinking and retooling my procedures to try to get those windows with more kids.


P.S. I also got this e-mail from a student:

In this correspondence, I hear Rorshach from Watchmen. She’s looking up and shouting “validate me.” And I have to answer, “No.”

My reply:

She, too, came by office hours. It was a nice chat, but I still get the feeling that she wants very much to live in the old world.

To the Trump Voter


Now, at last.

Now, at last you have no excuses. No false equivalencies left to fabricate. No way to spin away what is right before your faces.

Now, Trump has shown the very bottom of his nature.

He has shown that not only does he not care about us, his fellow Americans, but he thinks we are all beneath him.

By insulting service members, by insulting our fallen soldiers–our war dead–he has revealed without question that not only is he without empathy, but he is constitutionally incapable of understanding sacrifice and nobility. He is the worst of us.

You cannot hand-wave this away as a fabrication of the “mainstream” media. At least four sources in the room heard this. Four people who were part of the Trump administration. This is confirmed by, of all outlets, Fox News.

Fox News.

And you cannot pretend he is not an unrepentant liar. He lied immediately during his denial, claiming that he was so upset about not visiting the cemetery in France that he called his wife back home to bemoan the disappointment.

But she was on the trip with him. She was right there.

He is a liar. He is a narcissist. He is the smallest man to ever occupy the Oval Office.

Now you cannot deny it.

You cannot.

But it is not too late. It is never too late.

You can still do the right thing.

It’s hard to admit when we’re wrong, but you can do it. I did it when Clinton was revealed to be a liar and a bastard–and quite possibly worse. But his faults and crimes pale in comparison to the display we have witnessed these past four years.

What will America be after another four years of this?

Weaker. Our alliances, tattered now, will be laid to waste. Our enemies and rivals, emboldened now, will tower over us.

Poorer. The economy that is struggling to revive itself will only limp toward profits for a few, leaving the many wounded by these crises in pain and need. The brain drain we are already seeing from slower immigration will accelerate, with more Americans of means fleeing the crumbling United States.

Sicker. Our healthcare system, strained, will be utterly shattered. Our environment, unprotected now, will be completely sullied, degraded by greed.

Uglier. We see in our streets strife and disorder. You think this is something Trump will stop? He has brought it on us. He has led us to this terrible moment by emboldening white supremacists, by stoking violence, by simply being himself–selfish, hateful, petty.

You cannot deny it any longer. Trump is the problem. He has brought us low.

He lied to you. You believed him. You thought he would be different. He was. He was worse. So much worse.

You must admit it to yourself. You must.

We must do better than what this man offers us.

Trump is right about one thing said at the Republican convention: This election will decide America’s soul. And what does embracing this man as a leader say about us as a nation? If he is shameless enough to disparage those who made the ultimate sacrifice for country, how can he be the man to redeem that country’s soul? In your hearts, you must know what you have to do:¬†Admit that this election is bigger than party or party priorities. Admit you were wrong. Do the right thing now.

Reject the tribalism. Reject his hateful, divisive vision for America. Embrace reason.

Vote Biden.