Sunday, December 22, 2013

Anatomy of a Grading Session

First, you gather your materials.  I use pencil for grading (except for very short journal sorts of stuff, for which I use different colored pens), but I also often need coffee or tea, some music (I prefer classical or jazz without words), and a fairly solid notepad.

While gathering your materials, you may become distracted.  Perhaps there are dishes in the sink.  Or maybe there's effbee.  Or snow to push around on the driveway.  There's probably something.  Fight the urge.

You sit down, pick up the first paper, and start to read.  Congratulations, you've just done the hardest part, the getting started part.  If you're lucky, the first paper you've read is good, and you can power through several more.  If you're not lucky, and the first paper sucks, then the dishes become so much more important.

No matter how brilliant the assignment, how good the papers, you power through a few, and then you want a distraction, something else to do.  So you count the papers.  You've done six, and there are 30 more to go.  This is the vital moment, almost as difficult as sitting down to the first paper.  If you can power through just a few more, then you can get to being a third done.   And a third done is close to half done, right?

If you can't, then may I suggest writing a blog post about how difficult it is to power through?


  1. Sounds about right. I find that another grading essential is a pack of gum. Back in the day, it used to be a pack of cigarettes, but now, gum does the trick. Chewing gum keeps me awake enough to power through papers.

  2. Oh, boy, does this sounds familiar. I'm done now (as of pretty late Friday night, definitely past the 5 p.m. that apparently the Registrar's office thought was understood when they passed on a final final deadline; faculty, of course, like students, tend to assume 11:59 p.m. deadlines for online work unless explicitly told otherwise), but I spent about a week in extremely distractable mode, making molasses-slow progress, before a bit of panic-induced adrenaline got me into power-through mode. I'll also admit to a bit of ball-parking on a final medium-stakes assignment (which made no difference in the final grades -- I checked, carefully, by trying out various scenarios on the spreadsheet -- so why do I still feel a bit guilty about it?)

    I'm definitely more distractable when I am tired, and, for whatever combination of reasons, I was very, very tired by the end of this semester.

  3. Or maybe there are some really important blogs you need to check on!

  4. It's like you're spying on me... :-)