Why I Look at Names When Grading

It was my teacher preparation program that brought this idea, that I loved, to my attention. They said that, “when you grade work you shouldn’t look at the names. This is true equity.” As a teacher candidate, I completely agreed. Take the student out of it and just grade the work objectively. This is true equity. As a teacher, I now realize what a disservice these professionals are doing. And that is why I look at names when grading.


Let’s look at this hypothetically while remaining objective. A student answers a question on a test and you see that they have some decent content but the coherency is lacking. You use an “objective” scale to grade the answer and move on to the next. You proceed to follow this protocol throughout your entire class set of assessments. You do this for each section and then calculate the grade. You even cover up the name when you are totaling the assignment. Then you enter the grades in your mark book and finally start to compare some names with some grades. Johnny, as usual, gets 94% and Sherissa gets a 45%. Hey, you think, I graded this thing objectively and I did the equitable thing. If you do this, I honestly hope they make human-like robots soon enough to replace us all.


I do look at names when I grade. I do so because I actually have a functional idea of what equity actually means. Equity doesn’t mean same standard for all my students; they are not programmed the same and they are definitely not robots. I know that some students may even feel a different type of way knowing that today’s math time is going to be test time. Why I look at names when I grade is because I understand the human component to education. I realize, as a teacher, that I am not assessing and nurturing mere “students” but actual people. I am definitely not special, but I do maintain that the people in my class are actual people with a future, hopes and aspirations and self-esteem that I am hopeful to positively nurture. As teachers, we are not in the role to objectively judge. I repeat, we are not in the role, as teachers, to objectively judge.


The whole teachers’ preparation standpoint on grading made sense to me at that naïve point in my career. Deliver curriculum in the way you think is best, assess based on that and then turn around and again, “objectively” judge their learning based on your methods. Reading this, you may think that I am unabashedly suggesting a free-for-all method of pedagogy. I am not. I am simply saying that the idea of consideration and context plays an enormous role in student potential. Keeping those two ideas in mind, there is no way you could not look at names when you grade.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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