Online grade books are a lot like crack

Too much information overload Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

TAMPA, Florida, October 8, 202 - If you are a parent and want to enjoy good mental health, for as long as possible, stay away from online gradebooks.

It starts out innocently enough – mom or dad wants to see Junior’s homework assignments and participation credits. Daughter’s first few As of the year are intoxicating; who cares if it’s for showing up on time without curse words on her shirts? You log in every day and pretty soon are missing deadlines of your own, all strung out on potato chips and coffee, waiting for the next fix in the form of a passing quiz grade or science project.

I know. I’ve been there. 

I logged in regularly, expecting glowing reports, and instead experienced aneurysm-like symptoms because my high honor roll children were collecting Cs and Ds. And as any honest mother will admit – if we go down, we’re taking the whole family with us.

When I saw that first zero, I yelled to Husband to grab my wallet and stick it in my mouth.

“I feel a seizure coming on,” I told him.

He panicked, realizing that meant vegetables and beans for dinner. I told the kids to forget weekend video games.

The boys tried to explain that they’d turned in the work, but it hadn’t been marked online yet. I wouldn’t listen. I blamed myself for returning to full-time work. Perhaps if I stayed home watching Dr. Oz all day this never would have happened. My poor kids won’t end up in a good college. They will drop out of high school and impregnate girls named Starr or Cinnamon.

I wrote to each teacher, asking for opinions about where I went wrong. Each one replied that grades online aren’t always accurate.

“I have several grades that haven’t been added yet,” one teacher wrote, in a tone that showed he’d no idea how close I came to needing medication. “Your kids are doing fine.”

Fine? What does that mean? When I was a high school teacher, I had a student who snorted liquid paper. If I got him through the week without a stomach pump, we thought he was doing fine. What was fine for my boys?

Wait a minute, I thought. That’s it. I was a teacher once and, if memory served, too busy to update my own personal grade book every single day. That thing was a mess. I even kept notes in the margin, reminding me about students’ parole hearings and hygiene issues. Maybe I shouldn’t take the one online so seriously.

After all, that’s why we have progress reports, report cards, and pro-rated therapy sessions.

There are some great things about online grading systems, like homework updates and exam reviews.

Instead of logging in every day to check grades, I make sure teachers have my contact information. I show up at all four conference nights and email regularly to stay informed.

If you can stand the pressure, continue to check online grades. Me? I’d like to avoid rehab until the kids go to college.


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Catherine Durkin Robinson

Catherine Durkin Robinson is an award-winning humor/parenting columnist and mother to twelve year-old twin sons who, despite a fondness for Latin and stringed instruments, can still throw a perfect spiral and name everyone in the NBA. She writes columns about how American parenting can improve in a voice that’s as familiar as a hunting permit and apple pie. In her spare time, she investigates missing socks.

Contact Catherine Durkin Robinson


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