Academics @ SLA

Lauren Nicolella & Sukainah Hasan

Staff Writers

Every teacher at SLA has their own grading policy, which is usually introduced at the beginning of each school year to lay down baseline expectations for grading, late work, and absences.

But how do teachers develop these policies? And how do they affect their students?

History teacher, Jason Todd, who teaches half of the sophomores and seniors, explained how there are more individual grading policies for each classroom, and it differs from the other Sophomore World History teacher, Dan Symonds.

“The dynamic of each class is different, and there are a number of factors that go into that. I play a role in creating that, and some classes seem more engaged than others.” says Todd.

All sophomores go through the Cortez trial, where they are given a role to defend in a simulation that lasts for at least a week. Because no class or teacher at SLA is the same. Each of the classes works through the project at their own pace with different approaches.

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Mr. Todd explained that the project is a product of SLA’s combination of collaboration and autonomy for teachers.

“The trial is something Mr. Symonds and I have collaborated on and shared ideas on, but outside of collaborating on the unit, we haven’t touched base on reflecting on how it went during each class.” said Todd.

Mr. Todd has not expressed any concerns with students or streams, but instead is always looking for ways to improve his classroom and receive feedback from students about assignments and benchmarks.

“If I feel like the students are overwhelmed or I look at the calendar and I see other teachers have projects I’ll usually try to pull back and not give as much homework. I’ve been trying to give more time for longer readings, so they can be broken down and give more time to do a second part.”

Mr. Todd also takes personal feedback seriously, using emails from students and an end of the year survey to improve on specific units and benchmarks.

“I do listen to the general consensus and feedback. If I get a few emails from kids, I’ll pull some aside and try to engage in how overwhelmed they are.”

Symonds has also made student health his top priority when starting this school year.

“For the first day for freshmen, I assigned sleep as their homework. I try to make room so it’s equally as important to focus on learning,” Symonds explained. “I try to be very accommodating when it comes to health.”

He is known for giving students some extra time to do work, only when he sees that they are being genuine about struggling rather than making up a false story that is just a fault of being lazy and procrastinating.

On a personal level, it is difficult for teachers to create time to grade, as they are constantly finding ways to improve their schedules and plan out lessons that can align for when grades need to be due. They try to accommodate to the students without damaging their sleep schedule too much.

“I made a pledge to my world history class that if I don’t grade it within two weeks, it’s an automatic 100%,” says Symonds.

After speaking to some teachers, we decided to interview a freshman and a sophomore to see if students feel the same way about the grading policies that their teachers have. The first question that we asked both students was: How do you feel about the grading policies for each teacher?

“Some of my teachers grade slower than others,”  sophomore Ami Doumbia started to explain. “The ones that are grading slower than others, are making an effort to grade faster since lots of students are complaining about it.”

When we asked freshman Imajay Harvey the same question, he also stated that some of his teachers grade slowly.

The second question that we asked both students was: Do different grading policies make it harder to work in certain classes?

“Yes, because since some of my teachers grade slow, sometimes I don’t get to see my overall grade, until the end of the quarter,” Imajay stated. “Since this is the case, it doesn’t allow me to make up any assignments to make my grade higher than I want it to be.”

When I asked Ami the same question, she also stated: “It does make it harder to work in certain classes, because the more that teachers grade slower, the more students won’t have a chance to change their grade, and see what they can actually improve on.”

Based off of these responses, it shows how it makes it harder for students to work to get a good grade in certain classes, because of how some teachers grade. The next question that I asked both students was: Does your teacher grade at a pace that makes you satisfied or annoyed?

“Most teachers grade at a pace that I’m satisfied  because the grades that we get is what we deserve” Ami explained.

When Imajay was asked this question, he stated, “The way some of my teacher’s grading pace are makes me annoyed, because of how slow I receive feedback on assignments.”

So how should students deal with these challenges?

“The ability to communicate about your education is important,” Imajay said.

When we asked Ami this she also said: “Communication with a student and teacher is important, because some teachers grade harshly without knowing the mindset of a student. A teacher might say something, but students may have taken it the wrong perspective and it faulted into their grade.”

SLA teachers are very open to criticism, and receiving feedback so they understand what could be better for those apart of their class the following year. Mr. Symonds explained how he uses methods like anonymous surveys, email individuals, or personal conversations — but that those comments do take a toll sometimes.

“I try and open myself to feedback and criticism, but that’s hard to do. Every time I say ‘Be honest, what do you think?’ and somebody’s actually honest, it still hurts.”

Despite this challenge, Mr. Symonds and other SLA teachers feel the effort is worth it because they’re constantly trying to improve their classrooms.

“I think people are more willing to give me feedback because they understand I am still learning. Every teacher really is still learning.”

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