Digitally unprovoked: the problem of lack of grades

Ana Costanzo, Staff Writer

By Ana Costanzo

With COVID-19 infiltrating Virginia Beach City Public Schools, PA Spanish teacher Jennifer Guido had to replicate her syllabus on the digital platform Schoology in an attempt to replace tête-à-tête instructional time with at-your-own-pace learning for students studying at home. As technology has solidified itself as a major backbone for school systems during the pandemic, Guido has found connecting digitally with students a difficulty in which she must master.

           “By that, I don’t mean having access to the internet but to see and speak with students and interact with them. Teaching and learning are social activities, and it has been difficult to continue to do that at a distance,” said Guido regarding this challenge.

           Moreover, the expectation for students to continue their education outside of an institution specifically designed for adolescent education harbors its own misgivings. 

“Suddenly expecting [students] to continue learning just because it is the right thing to do or worthwhile in general was always going to be a challenge,” Guido stated, attributing this misgiving to the lack of grades.

As students are no longer required to submit an assignment in the hopes of an A, but rather in return for academic merit, sophomore Mallory Lamb has difficulty in productivity and quality of her work. “I was really counting on the fourth quarter to raise my grade and I didn’t get that opportunity,” said Lamb, attributing this as a reason for her lack of quality in her work while still maintaining submission of assignments.

While Lamb remains motivated without the compelling nature to excel for high marks, Guido acknowledges students are less motivated to submit assignments.

Indeed, junior Shreya Patel has found it increasingly difficult to engage herself with Schoology, stating she falls behind in submitting work particularly regarding lengthy assignments, reasoning it “won’t be graded anyway.” Thus, Patel would prefer teachers were able to grade assignments and submit them in the grade book in order to continue her motivation and complete the work on time.

However, one must account for the uncontrolled environment of which a student lives, factors such as the unreliability of the internet, the lack of quiet solitude for work, or mental conditions such as anxiety and depression over self-quarantine affecting student motivation, according to Guido. Although she is aware students could potentially be “taking advantage of the situation to just not do any assignments,” Guido offers her students “the benefit of the doubt” due to the unknown circumstances. 

           Likewise, English teacher Angela Hamrick demonstrates open-mindedness in confronting Schoology and student engagement. While many of her students have consistently completed assigned work since mid-March, there too are students stopping submission altogether.

           “I keep in mind that I don’t know what the circumstances are,” said Hamrick regarding her lack of awareness of student conditions which may affect their ability to continue school work. “Perhaps someone in the family is ill; perhaps the internet has been cut off; perhaps they have had to pick up a job to help buy food for their family.”

           While acknowledging home issues surrounding students which have the potential to cripple student involvement online, mathematics teacher Tatiana Hernandez also recognizes that “some students will not be reached if they don’t want to be.”