Opinion: Are Student Mailboxes Truly Necessary?

Last week, the Friends Select Upper School reintegrated student mailboxes into the community after being dormant for 2020. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mailboxes were used in the Upper School as a way for teachers to return tests, quizzes, and any other paper assignments outside of class. Almost every morning, a student could check their mailbox and find a graded assignment waiting for them. As the school transitioned online, all assignments were completed and graded through various virtual means, whether it was taking a picture of work or doing the entire assignment online. 

The shift back to in-person learning has resulted in many teachers reverting back to their previous ways of assigning and grading homework or assessments, while some continue to utilize their online methods from last year. Some teachers now prefer to have no online assignments or classwork whatsoever, but the grades are still being delivered to students through the school’s Learning Management System (LMS), Blackbaud. 

The mailboxes are meant for students to be able to get their graded tests, quizzes, and other important assignments back quicker, but they aren’t making anything easier or quicker for anyone. Firstly, students are getting their grades back through Blackbaud, and although they may not be able to see the exact details of their grading, they can still see how it affects their overall grade for the class. Waiting one or two days extra for a student to get their on-paper assignment back and see exactly how they performed is not worth the addition of mailboxes. 

Student mailboxes also encourage teachers to use more paper. Unnecessary paper use is harmful to the environment, and Friends Select should commit itself to making environmentally friendly choices. However, the mailboxes encourage teachers to create worksheets and assignments on paper, while previously they might have been on a Google Doc.

Another unnecessary issue from student mailboxes is the messy atmosphere they create in the hallways, as students crowd around the area. Why create an unnecessarily chaotic environment when teachers can just give students their assignments back in class in a simple, calm manner? 

Students could also potentially be tempted to see their classmates’ grades through the mailboxes if they choose to do so. Many students and faculty are in support of the policy of not sharing grades with other students or peers. Student mailboxes create the opportunity for any student to take a peek into anyone else’s school work or even accidentally catch their eye on a peer’s graded test. Handing back major assignments in class takes one to two minutes at the most and helps enforce a sense of security regarding students’ grades and their privacy.

Some may argue that mailboxes create a more efficient way to give students their assignments back, but in reality, they create a messy environment that encourages more paper use and dismantle security and privacy around students’ grading. The short wait to receive a paper assignment back is not worth the risks that mailboxes impose.