When Students Are Reduced to Numbers

I have been teaching for the last two years, and I always find it difficult to provide standardized grades. Using the principles of tests and measurements, I know that there should be rubrics to determine the performance of students in particular classes. However, what I find difficult is the reduction of students as rational individuals to being students merely conforming to the standards of the class.

I feel that providing grades makes the teaching profession very impersonal. For months, the teacher develops a certain bond with his or her students. At the end of the semester, the teacher is required to measure students’ performance based on specific criteria. In this case, how do we know if we are really measuring the capacity of the students?

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I always reflect after computing grades. I will occasionally be surprised because some will get flat one or four (the highest grade) because they conformed to every requirement. Though, sometimes, I feel that some students who get the highest grade do not deserve it at all! Of course, I cannot just decrease their grade because I have to have an “actual” basis for my actions. Some students, on the other hand, will get a lower grade even though you know from the bottom of your heart that they are the ones who will actually make a difference in the world. There are special instances too when students would get the same grade and you would feel that only half of those students deserve that perfect grade.

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I cannot contemplate enough on the fact that exams or quizzes determine the grades of the students. How do I account on the character? How do I include on the rubric the activities of the students outside of my class? How do I be fair in this mechanism?

The Character The Teacher Sees

The most grade conscious student does not equate to the most intelligent in the class. There are several instances when I would be ultimately impressed. Once, I had a student who would come late in class for she has to find first enough money for transportation to be able to come to class. There were these students who ultimately surprised me because of the intense passion and enthusiam they showed in a minor subject. There were students who would inspire you because they keep asking questions and it just proved to you that they had really become interested in your class.

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Not everyone will perfect the exams, though. Not everyone will complete the attendance and take all the quizzes. The most enthusiastic student might not be able to get a flat one or four and that would make the teacher ultimately sad. Of course, the teacher can always adjust the grades. How about the spirit of fairness? How will you explain the adjustments to extremely and competitively grade-conscious students?

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The Value of Grades

Grades are just numbers. I always tell my class that these do not dictate the worth of a student. Sometimes, it is just the effort a student exerted. Sometimes, it is just the technique the student managed to maneuver in the class. In any case, grades are mere numerical explanations of a student’s performance. It is still up to him or her how he or she will utilize the lessons in class. At the end of the day, it is not the teacher who will give grades, but the society to which the student really belongs, and to which he or she owes everything learned in school.

Author’s Note: He has written this in 2015, after he has submitted the grades of his students.


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Crazy about popular culture, pre-colonial, and Spanish-era studies. Fan of Christina Aguilera and Katrina Halili.