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Why I don’t do A+
Only in rare circumstances
My rubrics are relentlessly egalitarian — anyone can get an A if they follow the requirements. And kids with a range of ability levels consistently pull it off. Sure, some of their line by line writing could use work, but the thinking is largely there. And if they can remember to use capital letters (no guarantee), an A is within range. I like that everyone in class could get the top score. Many do.
A+? I don’t like it.
Our school is inching toward adopting standards-based grading, so I tend to use a 0-3 scale for each requirement. 3 Got It, 2 Almost, 1 Not Yet, and 0 Didn’t Do. Some teachers have 4 Wow! but I don’t. For a student to“exceed grade-level expectations,” it’s not because of something I taught. They walked in the door with skills, either thanks to past schooling or home, or usually a combination of the two. And I feel weird giving an A+ for history.
Hey, congratulations on having parents who read to you from a young age! Bravo for growing up in a household that prized education. You get an A+ because you got the most out of the six years of school before me. Your privilege earns you a better grade than others.
But you, other kid, you were born into tougher circumstances. Your parents loved you, sure, but you didn’t have the same advantages, the same values were not presented to you. Maybe your parents had a different relationship with education, with reading, with the English language. Maybe you’re new to excelling at school, and success comes only with effort. But you met the requirements, you proved yourself at grade level, you demonstrated you understood what I taught. You get the second highest score in class, an A.
Not in my classroom, A is the top score. If you can do things I didn’t teach, your reward is the opportunity those skills will afford. Top students can come from all backgrounds of course, but it seems like a lot of higher achievers were born on third base. That’s their reward, they don’t need an A+, too.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Vee to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
Based on a true story. I love the detail in the progression of the Wife pouring the wine, and the Onion chopping the peppers. Vee has a substack, you should subscribe!
Jam of the Week
I just found out Little Barrie did a followup to their outstanding 2020 groove rock opus Quartermass Seven. 2022’s Quartermass Expansion is alt takes and bonus tracks, and it’s nearly as fun as the original (start there). Similarly, I loved the Beastie Boys 2007’s instrumental The Mix-Up, and I recently discovered a 6-song “single” from 2008 that has a similar lineup of alts and unreleased. Endless jams.
My Back Pages
From my blog Surgical Strikes, less than two weeks after moving back to Boston, Nov 10, 2005, “You can’t lose a pair of gloves”:
Because if you lost the full pair, you wouldn’t have one glove sitting around with no use except to remind you that you’re a dumb-ass. This is how it works. You destroy everything you touch. You can’t have nice sunglasses because you break them or lose them, or sometimes both. You can buy a nice TV, but you’ll crack the base on the first day.
I forgot about that crack in the base. Bugged me every time I watched television.
You’re not the only one who’s surprised you’ve only lost your wedding ring once, and that was in the house, and only for ten minutes, and it was just under the coffee table. You lose stuff and you break stuff. You can dress up like a grownup and pretend you’re better than you used to be, but you aren’t. This is how you are, and probably how you always will be.
Damn, this guy’s pulling no punches.
You can’t lose a pair of gloves, only the one. You already needed to replace your winter coat and hat, and you were going to keep the gloves because they didn’t need replacing. Gloves you don’t even know how you got, gloves that mysteriously appeared in your closet one day, gloves you may have stolen from your dad so long ago that nobody would even know any more. Gloves that went with you every winter you came home from Los Angeles. Gloves that went on your December honeymoon to Paris. Probably cheap gloves, but not unstylish and definitely warm. Possibly the best gloves you’ve ever owned. Now gone, or at least half-gone.
Less not unstylish, more non-offensive. I remember raiding my parents closet on an early visit home from California, finding gloves that were probably mine, otherwise sitting idle. They lived deep in an LA closet with my other winter regalia, worn once a year.
Half-gone, because if you lost them both, you might be able to forget you even had them. But no, you lost just the one, and you can’t forget that, not when the right glove is in your pocket, taunting your cold hands, taunting you for being too vain to do your Michael Jackson impression. No matter how strongly the wind blows, you almost want to punish yourself for creating this situation. You lost a glove, like you lose everything. You’re pathetic and you always will be. This is what you get.
Dear dear! Extreme, but I remember it was a gut-punch. Being in LA for 7+ years meant it had been a long time since I’d lost a glove. I went to a dark place.
Actually, wait, the glove fell out in the living room before you left the house, never mind.
Ha! The old Emily Litella “Never mind” turn. Good, I was gettin a little uncomfortable with how self-hatey it was getting. But it was all a bit. Another joke I left for myself.