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Shaundalyn Elliott's Diary
The First 180 Days


Shaundalyn Elliott, a recent college graduate, always dreamed of being a corporate lawyer. Her deep feelings of responsibility to the minority students in her hometown led her instead to a teaching position at her alma mater, an urban middle school in Montgomery, Alabama. Each week during this school year -- Shaundalyn's first year in the classroom -- she will share with Education World readers her thoughts and feelings about her first 180 days!

Shaundalyn's Diary: Nine Weeks Down

Week 12

Although the school just distributed report cards on Thursday, November 2, all the teachers at my school are already getting ready for the next round!

Our grading process is simple. The school uses a system from the STI classroom module. Teachers can easily go into the program to load grades into the computer, print progress reports, keep attendance, enter the numbers of textbook for students, and even add comments on report cards.

I am no stranger to the system because it is the same one the school used last spring when I completed my internship at Goodwyn. The only portion of the system that gave me some difficulty was the initial setup for my grades -- that is, determining whether to use a point system to determine grades.

I decided against the point system and opted for a more traditional approach, much like the one my cooperating teacher used last semester. I chose to weigh my students' grades equally. Half of each student's grade is the average from tests and quizzes, and the other half is the average of the student's notebook, composition book, special project, and book report grades. By adding those two averages together, I get the student's final grade for the nine-week marking period. So far, this grading system has worked well for me.

We have just begun another grading period, and my students understand my grading procedures. They keep an assignment and a grade sheet in their notebooks at all times so that they can record both their homework and grades and make them available for their parents to see. At the bottom of the students' grade sheets, I have also included the steps for determining the final grade. I noticed the students were able to follow this very easily.

The student grade sheet serves two purposes. First, it allows both the parent and the student to monitor grades at all times. Second, it prevents students from asking me to tell them their final averages at the end of the grading period.

The grades from the first grading period were great! Only 12 of the 113 students I teach failed. The vast majority of the grades were A's and B's. The remaining grades were mostly C's, with only a few D's. I was extremely proud of my students' grades. I could see that most of the students were actually absorbing what I taught.

So far, I have scheduled only two conferences since the report cards were issued. Bad weather canceled one. The other involved a student whose grade was a B for the nine weeks, so I was a little surprised that his parents decided to come. Once I entered the conference, though, I noticed that all his teachers were there. The parents just wanted to meet me. They also wanted to know why their son had failed most of his other subjects and passed my English class with such a high average. I explained that I have zero tolerance for class disruptions and that their son is very aware of that. Therefore, he has no other choice than to work very hard in my class.

As the parents were leaving, the mother thanked me for attending the conference. She also commented on how impressed she was that such a young lady could control a group of adolescents. She wondered how I managed to do it. My answer was simple: "I was a student at this same school only eight years ago, and I remember the way we were. I always said that if I ever became a teacher, I would be one of the firmest because some people cared enough to be firm with me. I owe your son and all the other sons and daughters at Goodwyn the same thing. In fact, I owe them more." The light in her face showed me that she accepted what I said. The tingle in my heart told me that I meant what I said.

Next week's entry should be quite interesting. Our class began our unit on mythology, folktales, and fables.

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Shaundalyn Elliot
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