My students took their mid-terms last week.The in-class portion was a breeze.  No, really; it was.  There were 25 true/false questions (most of which could have been answered correctly by someone who hadn’t taken the class yet but who has some modicum of common sense), five definitions, and two short answers.  Seriously.

The take-home portion was a bit tougher, but certainly not beyond the ability of my students.  I sent them off with a copy of Martin Luther King Jr’s I have a dream speech (and directions for how they could listen to the speech through that link, too) and five essay questions.  Before I let the classes leave with their questions, though, I went over each of them and explained exactly what I wanted them to do.  I told them that I expected them to do some serious thinking, and that they not just give me last-minute, bullshit answers.


Now, I should disclaim here that there were a few students who really (really!) nailed the essay questions.  They gave full, thoughtful, and eloquent answers on topics like whether or not time has affected the impact of King’s speech, and how King uses transitions and rhetoric to move to his purpose.  One student got full credit on each of the five questions, even.

Five students didn’t bother to do the essay questions at all, and that’s just in my face-to-face class.  My hybrid kids’ essays are due today by 6 p.m.  Can you tell how optimistic I’m feeling over here?


The essay questions are 30% of the final grade, so kids who choose not to do them are starting out with a 70 right off the bat.  Even though the in-class test wasn’t rocket science, and even if they do nail that part of the exam, a 70 isn’t a great grade.  Sure, it’s passing, but it will bring down a good average, and certainly won’t help bring up a bad one.

What.  Ever.


I have a dream, that someday, all my students will do the work assigned to them, and that they will receive the grades that reflect their abilities, rather than the grades that reflect their apathy!

(my apologies to Dr. King.  I just couldn’t help myself)



Filed under concerns, General Griping, Teaching

6 responses to “Mid-Terms!

  1. I have the same problem with my 9th graders – I think it’s laziness. They just don’t want to write an essay.

    For our state tests, the kids don’t answer the open-response questions either. My colleagues and I just don’t know what to do with this problem. All year long we prepare them and build up their writing skills and then they freeze for the test. In my state, if they don’t pass the state test, they don’t graduate from high school.

    Quick example: My French Revolution test. They had three CHOICES of essay topics to write about & all they had to do was pick ONE! One of the essay choices was to discuss the causes of the French Revolution. I had those causes drilled into their heads! And, in another part of the test (to help them out) I put a few of the answers. The essay was worth 50 points (half of their of test grade). Out of 90 9th graders (4 sections of freshman World History), I had 20 students who did not answer the essay. I pointed out to them when they turned the test into me that even if they got everything correct on the test, the highest grade they would receive would be a 50%! They just shrugged their shoulders at me. Ughy! 😦

  2. bowyer

    Although I am at risk of sounding redundant to some, neither M-Dawg’s experience nor Mrs. Chilli’s predicted results surprise me.

    Grades mean little to the average student. I believe that this has become the norm for a few reasons.

    1) Students don’t see any immediate reward or repercussion for performing well or poorly. They get what they get and we (teachers) generally move on anyway. [Fix – Make them repeat the material on their own time until they succeed. Don’t allow them to accept a zero.]

    2) Students don’t see any future reward or repercussion for performing well or poorly. Their friends and siblings seem to get into higher education or get jobs regardless of respective success in school. We laud the accomplishments of celebrities, politicians, business people, etc., when they succeed in the face of poor performance. (No one bothers to mention persistence, hard work, luck and other extenuating conditions of their successes.)
    [Fix – Provide incentives and take away supports from those who willingly circumvent education. (This is a topic for another discussion and can not be properly addressed here.)]

    3) We (teachers and our material) can no longer compete in a world of immediate gratification. Text messaging, cell phones, on-demand programming, DVR, mp3, and all of the other pieces of technology all allow people who make poor decisions like our students (although they are not the only culprits) to focus their attentions in and out of class on anything but learning. (Fix – Probably none, unless lawmakers want to play hardball with companies, parents, and students regarding our way of life.)

    Society’s lack of respect or value for education is not lost on children. My class could be interrupted on any given day for general announcements, discipline by administration, tardy students, assemblies, fund raisers, phone calls to me from administrators, (Yes, during class. Sigh.), and various incidental interruptions from the student body or other teachers.

    In the last week I know of a student who missed two afternoons of class for a doctor’s appointment for her one day and one for her brother on the other because she drove him there. When asked what this student’s parents used to do before she received her license, she replied that they worked around their schedules but now that she can drive it doesn’t matter any more.

    Another student missed school for a hair appointment, when asked why she didn’t schedule it after school she replied that it would have interfered with her sport practice.

    To wrap it up, school in general means almost nothing to the average student now (grades mean even less). Until we make success in school matter again, this mind set will remain and likely even proliferate among the masses as the “good” students see the other students “succeeding” with little effort or ability.

  3. I think you should start your MLK lesson with your version.

    Re: Grammar Wed, have you done alright vs. all right? Is alright even a real thing or just something I see too much? I know I never use it.

  4. So, M-Dawg; it starts early, huh?

    Bowyer, I think you’re dead on in your assessment of the situation. My students (obviously) don’t care about their grades. Neither, I know, do yours. I think you’re right about the reasons that they don’t care, too, and it makes me sad. There’s really nothing that we (teachers) can do about it except continue to be enthusiastic about our students and the material we teach. The change has to come from society, and I don’t see enough people making enough noise about any of this to bring about change anytime soon.

    I recognize that I’m new to this whole game and that my enthusiasm won’t last forever. I worry a little for my future.

    Kizz, I’ll address your Grammar Wednesday question next week. Can you give me anything else to post about? I’m not sure I can do a whole entry on just all right/alright.

  5. One day, I had posted a complaint on my blog about the fools (university) I was working for at that time. A former student, who had guessed who I was, posted a comment that they must not realize what a treasure they had. That 1 comment, from someone I have not seen in 10 years, makes up for the 100 other students that didn’t care to try.

    See, I always remember the bad ones, the goof offs, the slackers. I remember how discouraged I can get. I forget the ace students because they don’t give me any heartaches. So remember those Buffy Moments, because that will buoy your spirits in the long run.

  6. sphyrnatude

    I think folks are dead on. There is no longer (if there ever was) a reason to care about grades. Bad grades won’t get you held back a year, they won’t prevent you from going to college, and (chances are) your parents won’t even give you much grief about them. The student that made a hair appointment during school instead of during sports practice exemplifies the attitude of most people to school: its nothing more than a place to stick the kids while mom and dad go to work.
    However, there is some hope. During my tenure teaching at University, I recall two groups of students. The first group were the kids taking the intro Biology 100 course – a requirement for most majors. About half of them dropped out of my class because I required a term paper, and they didn’t want to (or couldn’t) write one. One particular student stood out as an example. An average student, holding his own until the midterm – the term paper was due a week before the midterm, and I graded them while the kids took their exam. First, some background: the “erm paper” was a lab report that essentially required copying a few pages from a few different worksheets, and filling in some data blanks. This particualr student turned in his paper – 5 pages worth – without a single punctuation mark, word phrases of three or four words, and no logical sequence. If I hadn’t known what thepaper was supposed to be about, I would have had no idea what he was writing about. Instead of grading his paper, I wrote “see me”. I never saw him again. He stopped coming to class, lab, and discussion groups.
    The second group of students were the grad students and seniors that I taught. Totaly differnt population, but I still get the shivers remembering some of the discussion we had – especially when we were dissecting someone else’s experimental methods and procedures…. I guess the message is tha the academic filters *do* work – the good students will rise to the top, it just takes about 15 years longer than it should…..

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