It's that moment in the semester when I'm faced with all the data from the work of my students at NYU, and it's time to somehow assign each of them a grade. The process of wading through their essays, my own notes on student presentations and performances, and peer assessments of other students' work can feel incredibly daunting, especially when faced with the holiday season and the deadlines that swirl around because of that.
However, for every challenge inherent in having to assign a student a grade for their work, there's a triumph as well. I have the pleasure of teaching in a discipline that invites a student to take a risk and then hopefully rewards those risks even when the results aren't what the student had hoped for. That doesn't mean that everyone gets an "A" because they tried; that practice drives me crazy and truly illustrates what's wrong with our current education system. But the lessons learned from taking risks far outweigh the sadness one might feel when they don't get the grade they were expecting, and I try to think about that when I assign the final grades for the semester.
My students typically accept the challenge of risk taking and make the most of it. They jump in with generous spirits and try things, we talk about what works and doesn't work in those attempts, and then we collectively move forward and try again. It's what artists do, and it's really what should be assessed and then rewarded in the life of the artist. Not whether every piece of work we create is better than the one before it. What does a body of work created over time show us about an artist? I wish I could assess that rather than a snapshot of a moment in time.
For their willingness to take risks throughout this semester and for keeping me on my toes at every step of the way, my students are the artists I admire for this week.