Something I pride myself in is building strong relationships with my students. Do they love all of the content they engage with? Probably not. Do they like math more than when we first started working together? I hope so. Do they engage with me in meaningful conversation about this, that, and the other? Quite often.
So it killed me to hear that my gradebook was recently compromised by a student.
At first, I heard it was by a student I never met. I questioned how they were able to do it, but then again almost anything is but a Google away (I taught myself how to do it in under 15 seconds). Days went by, and an investigation ensued. It turns out that it was one my students that obtained my login information.
What pains me is that we had a phenomenal relationship, or so I thought. And still, I cannot help but think about what went awry, or what would cause the student to break our trust to do something like this.
Was it something I did?
I received an apology email from the student a few days into their out-of-school suspension. All of me wants to believe this came from a good place, and that it was not a forced apology.
“Not only have I hurt you, but I hurt myself and the class as well.”
But learning that this student, in partnership with at least two others, obtained the gradebook information of other teachers in the building, I questioned how genuine these words read.
I spoke with my classes about what happened, and a number of students already knew what was going on. We discussed at length about the “whys,” and it boiled down to two things: 1) the stress of getting good grades, and 2) holding power. It turns out that these students were selling their services, offering to change grades for money.
Now my student is back in class, and I am unsure of how to engage with them. I want things to go back to normal, but that is much easier said than done; the student returned to class as if nothing happened. I truly am trying to forgive and move on, but it feels awkward. Every time I look at them my stomach feels uneasy.
I am not sure how to proceed.
It has been well over a week since I found out my gradebook was compromised, and I find myself constantly thinking about why someone would do this. I really thought this type of stuff only happened in movies, but here I am listening to another teacher share their story about having to check 1300 grade entries for all of their students. Fortunately for me, my gradebook is minimal, with a total of ten entries for the semester, plus students and I keep track of their understanding in other areas besides the gradebook.
Could it be that grades have that much impact on our students’ decisions that it drives some to action like this? I get the whole “need good grades for college (blahblahblah)” argument, but would grades drive a student to break into a gradebook system to alter them? Or would grades be the motivator for students to break into school to steal final exams and answer keys (also a true story). What are grades teaching our students?
When it comes down to it, these letters and percentages that society values so much is just another way to sort the population. One could sort by content knowledge, compliance, race, gender identity, socioeconomic status…really anything.
But what hides behind that single quantifier?
This entire experience has made me further question my roles and responsibilities as an educator. It has led me to think about ways to redefine the learning experience in my classroom to further appreciate the process and the struggle over the semester grade.
But most of all, it really makes me appreciate how close we are to the end of the year, which means we can start fresh in a few months.