Tuesday, May 20, 2014

End of Year Procedures

Not too long ago I posted about activities to continue building community in our classrooms through the end of the year.  It's important to keep that as a key goal for our classes so that our students can forge relationships with their peers that surpass just our class.

That being said, there are plenty of tedious checklists that we as teachers must go through at the end of the semester.  Lots of paper work is involved when finalizing grades.  

For me personally, I like to make sure that grades are finalized a day or two before the semester ends.  This way, my students are well aware of their grades and they do not have any surprises when grades are posted. The following are tips for keeping yourself organized and covering your toosh at the end of the year:

  1. Print out individual grade sheets.  I like to print out 2 grade sheets for each individual student.  Typically, I just include all of the major assignments on this grade sheet (not smaller homework assignments).  This way I have a copy of the grade sheet and so does the student.
  2. Conference with each student.  A day or two before the end of the semester, I meet with each student individually.  I usually do this while students are working on a community building assignment like those mentioned in the post "End of Year Ideas".  In this meeting, I go over each of the major assignment grades.  After discussing the grades, I have each student sign his/her grade sheet agreeing to the final grade. Make sure to notify students about this process about a week ahead of time.  That way they can check grades online, check hard copies, and make sure everything is matching up correctly.  Then they can come prepared with any questions, comments, and concerns.
  3. Send home a letter.  Writing a letter informing parents of the grade finalization process in your classroom gives them information.  Parents like to be informed.  Often times the most complaints or phone calls come from parents who aren't aware of class procedures like grading.  In your letter, discuss how the grades are weighted (syllabus policy), your end-of-the-year conferences with students, and how/when they should get in touch with you if they have any questions.
  4. Make your phone calls.  If you have students who are failing or who will have to retake the course, call their parents!  Parents want to know that you care. They don't like to be surprised especially if there is a chance that they didn't know their child was failing.  If you don't feel comfortable calling, send out parent emails notifying them of their child's grade and directing them to summer school information.  The more info you give them, the easier and less surprising it will be for them.  Also, call students' parents who did a great job!  We shouldn't always call parents with bad information.  Some of the best parent phone calls I've had were the ones when parents got to hear something exciting about their child. For more tips on making parent phone calls, check out The Educator's Room's article "Scripting a Parent Phone Call - A Skill All Teachers Need."
No matter what you do, make sure that you have a procedure.  It's important to plan it out before this time comes.  If you have a procedure in place, you'll have fewer mistakes and be more effective... and, let's be honest, you'll cover yourself by having documentation.

Good luck with the end of the year!  If you know anyone who is having difficulties with planning the end of the year or who is thinking of ways to make the end of the year process run more smoothly, please share this link with them!