For the most part, I love teaching. I can't describe the feeling of satisfaction I get from nurturing my students and watching them make progress and learn new things. The one aspect of my job that I dislike is the end of a marking period or school year. There is just too much to do and too little time to get it done. Over the years, I have come up with a few strategies which have helped to ease the pressure during these highly stressful times. Perhaps some of them could work for you.
One of the hardest tasks is getting all the final tests and papers corrected and the grades recorded in time for report cards. This can be especially difficult for a blind teacher who must rely on a sighted person to read the papers aloud so that they can be corrected. Of course, this task takes longer for us to do than for our sighted colleagues. So, anything we can do to save time will be helpful. There are several ways that I have resolved this problem for myself.
First, I give shorter finals and essays, reserving longer tests and papers for earlier in the term when there is more time. By the end of the term, I know what my students know or don't know; so, longer evaluations are often unnecessary. Using this method takes a lot of pressure off me as a teacher and makes life easier for my students who must prepare for finals in several classes. If a comprehensive final exam is necessary and your school has a Scantron machine, consider giving a longer test which consists of multiple choice, matching, true/false, and fill-in-the-blank items. Then, use the Scantron to grade the test. The only thing your reader will have to do is read the test results to you so that you can record the grades. Although I haven't used this method recently because my current school doesn't have a Scantron, I have found it to be a great time saver at the end of a marking period when a machine was available to me.
Another alternative is replacing the written final examination with a major oral presentation. This method can be used in almost any subject and can take the form of a speech, demonstration, debate, performance, foreign language dialog, or an audio/visual presentation. Such a presentation can be graded using a rubric system in which points are assigned for each grading criterion. If you decide to use this evaluation method, be sure that the grade carries as much weight as a written test grade. Otherwise, some of your students may not take it as seriously as a written test.
This type of evaluation has several advantages over a written final. First, it can be graded more quickly and independently, which means a lot at the end of the term when time is of the essence. Second, it gives you the opportunity to measure skills which cannot be measured on a typical written examination. Some of these skills include oral language, public speaking skills, designing audio/visuals for presentations, the ability to demonstrate skills and procedures to others, creativity, and, in the case of group projects, the ability to collaborate with others and work cooperatively. One of the most important advantages of oral presentations is that they give students who perform poorly on written tests or those who may not do well in spelling, punctuation, and penmanship an opportunity to prove what they know. Of course, in foreign language instruction, measuring oral skills is just as important as measuring written skills. So, I use this method a lot and it works well for me.
Whether you give oral or written final examinations, students' final grades must be computed and reported so that they can be recorded on report cards. This can be a time-consuming task. However, there are ways to save time at the end of the term.
First, instead of doing all your grades after finals, start working on grades a week or two before finals. Add all the points that each student has received for all the tests, papers, and other assignments, excluding the final, and record that score. Then, figure out and write down your grading scale for the entire term. This method saves a tremendous amount of time because, after finals have been given and graded, all you have to do is add two numbers together to compute a student's grade for the entire term.
Second, design templates on the computer for reporting grades. Using a computer will allow you to do this task much more quickly, efficiently, and independently.
Other end of the year chores include those little, yet time- consuming incidentals, such as collecting and cataloging books, putting away teaching supplies and equipment, completing administrative forms, and general classroom clean-up. I use two strategies to get these tasks done. First, I start on them as early as possible so that everything isn't left until the last week of the term. Second, I allow reliable students to help with such things as taking down bulletin board displays, scrubbing the chalkboard, and putting away books. Not only does this save time for me, but it teaches students to be more responsible and helpful.
There is a lot to do at the end of a term or school year. However, with experimentation and imagination, you can find efficient ways to get all the work done. Then, you and your students will not be under so much pressure.
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