…in which Feminéma does the math re: her weekend

21 September 2012

If I want to return my students’ papers by Tuesday, I must grade 14 per day.

14 is a lot. 14 a day can take 14 hours if you let it. Even if you whittle it down to 30 minutes per paper — which is whizz-bang in my experience — that’s still 28 hours spread over the next four days during which I do not shop for groceries, do my laundry, prep for next week’s classes, answer email, make myself some kind of nutritious food, watch a movie, or have a nice afternoon on the deck with a novel. 28 hours of fierce, concentrated attention and holding back one’s temper.

So, naturally, my immediate response is to start doing other things. It’s equivalent to the sound of the alarm in the morning — even if I’m already awake, I think, “But I want to get more sleep!”

Here’s how that looks: if I keep hitting the figurative snooze button, on Sunday night I will think, “Tomorrow I need to grade 56 papers.”

Grading the first one is always the worst. Sometimes I even go through a stack and think, I’ll grade Antoinette’s first, because she’s an excellent student and has surely produced good work here. And then I start reading and beat my head against the wall.

Another solution is to pour yourself a glass of wine and start reading. That old stereotype of finding coffee stains on one’s work is a myth; in reality one finds red wine stains.

What I really need to remember is that I’m the one who blithely believed, back in August, that scheduling papers due in both my classes was not a terrible idea. Yes: I have done this to myself.

7 Responses to “…in which Feminéma does the math re: her weekend”

  1. Lovely reminder of why I don’t miss grading papers. I love: “Another solution is to pour yourself a glass of wine and start reading. That old stereotype of finding coffee stains on one’s work is a myth; in reality one finds red wine stains,” because it is true.

    • Didion Says:

      It’s not pretty, but it’s true. I used to have a regular happy hour with friends on Thursday nights and would actually enjoy arriving early and grading a few papers before my friends arrives and the alcohol content hit my bloodstream and made it impossible to continue.

  2. Dark Iris Says:

    I describe the experience of grading papers to people this way: It’s like hitting the sharp corner of a table that you walk past, over and over, in the exact same spot. I only have 30 to grade, but I’m definitely ignoring them for a day or two. I admire people who do a few per day, but I just have to wait until I have no choice in the matter. I cannot spread that experience of rage and despair over several days, but would rather suffer in a marathon session. A friend of mine just bought a WTF stamp. I don’t know if she’s actually going to use it on papers, but perhaps it’s satisfying just to know it’s there. I feel your pain, Didion!!

  3. servetus Says:

    I’m going to try something new this term, as I have relatively few students. I’m writing a pointed rubric (that I can share with my TA), and comments on style / writing will only be made on the rubric. No line by line comments. Thus I won’t wear myself out on the editing before I even get to the end of the paper. End of the paper will get one short para comment on substance. Students will be told that they can receive more intensive comments if they resubmit the paper. I’m hoping this improves turnaround and means I end up only giving long comments on assignments where it can do some good. I’ll let you know whether I can actually follow this plan, and if so, whether it works.

    • Didion Says:

      I read a pile of them last night (not 14, however) and realized that a rubric might be helpful. It appears that some of my comments might be repetitive anyway.

      On the whole, I’ll say that most of my students got into the spirit of the assignment and did a good job… but not a great job.

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