Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Joy and Pain

I'm having a rough time getting back into the school routine schedule after having been out of it for a mere 10 days. I try not to let myself get too relaxed on shorter holidays - because I know we'll be back in the fray in no time.

Yesterday wasn't bad, but it was a little slow going for me in the morning. I had even gone to bed just after 11pm, which is downright early for me. Last night, I was in bed by just before 11pm and the Evil Twin got in bed shortly thereafter. We chatted about Dexter for a few minutes, then drifted off.

I awoke at some point after midnight - I was being molested in my sleep. Nice, huh? It was fun (from what I remember) and I quickly fell back asleep. This morning, the alarm wasn't nearly so "alarming". I was still stumbling around with sleep in my eyes doing my morning chores and routine.

At some point, I remembered that I had not checked Buddy's backpack from the day before. He has an assignment book that needs to be signed and brings home papers or items I need to see, like the lunch menu or, hey, a REPORT card. Didn't know that one was coming.

In my half-sleep state, I pulled it from the envelope. Grades, all decent - except - WHAT? a C+? My eyes scanned over to the left side of the column where the classes were listed. It was in handwriting. Personally, I think handwriting is a bullshit, subjective thing to be graded on, but the Evil Twin told me I couldn't be too upset - that Buddy does have crummy handwriting. I beg to differ. It's a little shaky, but they make them excel not only in studies, but speed. Buddy doesn't like to be rushed, so he does a half assed job with his writing.

To me, handwriting, art, PE - those are all pretty subjective. Sort of like the person who flaunts their intelligence. Isn't that for others to determine?

I'm a huge fan of the film director John Waters. He has often said that he hates people who introduce themselves as artists. He says, "Really? Isn't that for others to decide?"

My point is that I feel it's pointless to put a letter grade system on subjective material. Who's to say Buddy's handwriting only merits a C+? What does A handwriting look like? I'd love to see that - because from what I've observed, the other kids in his class have incredibly illegible handwriting. Is the whole class in the shitter over it?

Have I mentioned lately that I can't wait for 5th grade?


  1. I think handwriting should be a very minor hit to the grade. Sure you need to be able to write, but in the real world anything I do that is important I type up. I worked with a guy once that introduced himself as an artist and I must say that I felt he was sort of full of himself. I agree with Mr. Waters in that society should be the judge. Oh how I miss the dreams I used to have of being molested... most action I've seen in a long time.

  2. Guess only ONE of you drifted off, eh?

    The THings don't have great handwriting...and they get marked for it in elem school. By middle school, it's not even a grade.

  3. FYI -- I don't know about how handwriting is graded (I would have flunked!) but I try to grade art students on understanding of the concept being taught more than more subjective things like creativity and vision and whatever.

    So, if I'm teaching color theory, and we're making 6 pieces demonstrating a different color harmony on each, all you have to do to get a good grade on that project is to show that you know the different color harmonies. I do grade on neatness (obvious stuff... like erase your fingerprints and paint neatly) but for the most part, I try to keep it as non-subjective as possible. To me, since most of my students are not going on to become artists, it's more important that they understand the skills they can use in "the real world" more than whether or not their art will wind up in the Met.

    I also use rubrics, which are like a shopping list that students check off so that they pretty much know their grade before I grade it. If you do this, this, this, this, and this, you get an "A." It's a no-brainer.

    I think most art teachers are moving toward this sort of thinking when it comes to grades. Just giving a blanket grade on whether or not a piece is successful doesn't do anybody any good -- the kids often don't even know why they lost points that way, so what could they do to improve?

    Personally, I think a handwriting grade is kind of silly. If a paper is illegible, hand it back ungraded. Otherwise, accept it and move on.

  4. I too enjoy the midnight molestations, although they are getting to be fewer and further between each episode.

    I'm sorry I haven't returned your call but I have no minutes left on my cell phone thanks to Little League and need to make my calls after seven until the fourth of this month when my billing cycle begins again.
    Thursday sounds great. I will try to call this evening. There is practice for two of the kids but I'll try my best to call, at least long enough to make definite plans.

  5. My handwriting is awful :-( it always has been and I bet it always will be. It's not really from lack of effort it's just a part of me. Like my fingerprint. I would hate to have been graded on something that is a personal characteristic of mine. I could understand losing some points in handwritten assignments but not a grade for handwriting. bah!

  6. That is why I use block printing. You can't fuck that up too much.

  7. I seem to recall handwriting being more of a P/F kind of thing. Mine always sucked because I can't hold a pencil the way everyone else does (crooked fingers), so I clutch it in this weird Frankenstein-write-gud kind of way. Mom had to make me practice using those alphabet examples the teachers put around the top of the boards.