One of the things I struggle with as a new teacher is figuring out how to create a sustainable system for grading and assessments. In my first year, I developed and established the routine of starting class with a Do-Now, handing out customized 5-10 paged packets for guided notes and independent practice, and ending class with an exit ticket. The Do-Nows and exit tickets were half-sheets of paper that had 5 questions. The questions were mixed; some were recall, while others were application.
In my first year, I took home everything. I graded everything. My office desk was covered in neat piles of stacked papers. The “nook” area in my apartment was covered in paper clips and papers. Huge chunks of my weekends were spent on calculating and logging grades in the grade-book.
Over time, my assessments changed. Do-Nows were shortened to three questions, and then now currently to one writing journal prompt. The prompts are usually the previous day’s essential questions, or big question of the day. As I learned more about assessments (specifically formative assessments), I began to grade less of the Do-Nows. I stopped grading the exit tickets too. The exit tickets themselves transformed from a list of critical key questions to a 3-2-1 format, in which scholars are asked to explain what concepts they felt most confident about and to pose a question from an area in which they felt uncertain from the lesson.
Even with the transformation in my Do-Nows and exit tickets, I noted that in my attempt to document scholar progress through these probes, I began to create charts. I have 3-column charts with scholar names, and a check system to document their work on their homework, Do-Nows, and classwork. So… here I am, in my second year of teaching with almost the same amount of paperwork on my desk as I did last year.
It feels claustrophobic, and I feel overwhelmed sometimes. When I get that feeling, I try to take a deep breath and remind myself that first and foremost, I teach young children. I teach them how to explore and investigate their natural environments. However, when I look at my desk, I get bogged down with grades and paper—so much paper! One of my colleagues tell me every day to make it simple. With the increasing pressure of standardized testing and grades, how does one keep it “simple”?
Perhaps that is something I still have to learn as a new teacher.