How I Grade my Students

Grading each of my classes so that every student has the right score and comments to match

I teach classes in China for a living, and I teach a lot of them.

Photo by The Climate Reality Project on Unsplash

I teach 6 to 9 classes a day, 6 days a week.
This spans grades 6,7 and 8 and three different subjects — Drama, Business and Debate. I teach all of these classes across 7 schools, which means I change schools either once or twice a day.

Remembering each of my students is extremely difficult for me, so when it comes to remembering their names and how they’ve performed and progressed over the semester… it’s an enormous challenge.

Schools and parents in China take final reports extremely seriously. Each of my schools finishes the semester with a strict list of requirements of what they need from me,

An updated plan of what I did all semester,
Lesson plans for each of my classes,
The final report.

These are collected and sent by each school to officials working in the Education Bureau at government offices in Shanghai. Final reports are translated and given to parents.

How students performed academically over the semester means everything to these parents. I remember my parents caring whether I passed or failed, but parents here care about progress, problems, limitations, where their children excelled, were held back, problems, and lots more.
From English teachers they even want to know how many words of English their child can speak now versus when the semester began. Yikes.

Photo by Tra Nguyen on Unsplash

This attention to detail is commonplace because parents in China will pour every dime they have into ensuring their child is as well educated as possible.
Children here go to school 5 days a week, then to ‘learning centres’ on the weekend.
They study every single day to ensure their future is as bright as possible.

So when it comes to me and my job, schools and parents are not casual when it comes to what they expect from me.

This is fair enough because foreign teachers in China can make double to triple what local teachers make. Schools are looking for a return on their investment, so here is what I do to ensure I can give it to them.

Videos are my best friend.

I’ve worked with kids in several countries, but China is the only one where I’ve had no pushback from videoing or photographing my students.

Local teachers are doing it all the time, parents are doing it, janitors are doing it — it means nothing.
I was formally use to American restrictions where it’s either not allowed at all, or is allowed with signed consent forms from everyone in the room.
Hell, American teachers even have to hide their phones.

Given that I now have the freedom to use my phone and video whenever I want, I use it to my advantage for final reports. There are two things I always film.

A name video

Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

A list of names isn’t going to cut it, because I’ll never remember which face to attach to which name.
So I line all my students up and will walk down the line and have them say their name clearly into the video. If they’re unable to say it clearly I’ll have them spell it out loud.
Once it’s recorded I immediately go to my laptop upload the video, then label and date it clearly so I can’t forget.
Writing a report later now becomes a dream.
I can see a face and remember which little shit bugged me all semester.. aah, I mean which of the angels deserves an A.

A performance video

Whether its drama, business or debate I always have a final performance.

With drama they will have learned a show all semester as part of their classes. They’ll perform it on the second-last week of semester and be graded.

Debate students will perform a final debate in two teams. This will also be graded.

Business students will have spent the semester building a pretend business in partnership with their learning. They will get up in their teams and present their business plans. They’ll also talk about the ups and downs that affected the profitability of their business. This presentation is also graded.

Each of these shows will be videoed. I stick my phone onto a tripod and let it roll. That way it serves two purposes,

The first is that I can watch it back later and pause whenever I need to. I can zoom in on excellent students and see things I never noticed before. I can also spot someone hiding a script in their hand that I may never have otherwise caught.

The second is proof of quality. I’ll put all these videos onto a super cheap USB stick and give it to the school along with the reports.
They’re always very proud of their students, and amazed by how much they’re able to do in English.

Each performance is usually longer than half an hour, performing this in a language many local teachers can’t speak boggles their mind.

Doing this makes great business sense for me because my income relies on schools telling my booking company how fantastic I am, and asking to have me back next semester.

In Conclusion

The secret to me grading Chinese kids isn’t a very big one.

I video them. Then I watch it back later and grade them based on how well they did.

Relying on your memory is, especially when it comes to names, a disaster waiting to happen.
Also writing notes is awful because then you’ll read them back later and be completely unable to recollect which of the 300+ little faces you see every week is suppose to be “John.”

If you have another technique that works I’d love to hear about it. But for now I’d better get back to work and watch yet another video..

“Susan”, “Joel”, “Ebony”, “Sandstorm”….. Really? … aaah Yep…. ok… “Raymond”, “Destiny”…

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I write articles that inform and delight from my anti-virus bunker in Shanghai, China. 🇦🇺 🇨🇳

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