Grading strategies

1) take breaks. I mean, my attention is going to wander anyway, so trying to just do nothing but grade for eight or nine hours is not really feasible. Hence, a number of timed breaks to browse the web, eat, etc. makes for a more productive grading experience overall.

2) switch courses and assignments. After a morning dealing with the blogs from one of my classes, I am now switching over to the final papers from another. This is good because a) the topics of the courses are somewhat different, so there's no sense of fatigue from remaining in the same intellectual place for too long; b) the formats of the assignments are different, so reading the final papers is a different experience than reading the blogs -- also helps me stay focused; and c) the cast of characters is different -- different students -- so there's a diminished likelihood than while grading student X's paper I'll be wondering whether student X's blogging or class participation was in fact as good or as poor as I graded it, and thus not be focused on student X's actual paper that is in front of me on the computer screen.

3) set aside several days. Sleep is a good thing -- kind of a system-reboot that allows me to start fresh the next day. Of course, the first thing I do at the start of a new grading day is to look back at the last thing I graded the night before, just to make sure I wasn't unfair (either unduly harsh or unduly generous) because of tiredness.

4) remember that it will all be over soon . . . especially in my case, because I am going on sabbatical next semester so I have zero teaching responsibilities until July. That's the prize on the other side -- the chance to read, to reflect, to catch up on some things and start some new ones. I love teaching -- it's the most important part of my vocation -- but sometimes even I need an extended break. (Not a "vacation"; those I get sometimes. No, I mean a break: a time to, as the ancients put it, let the fields lie fallow, and see what emerges.)

Everything changes in a couple of weeks, then -- it's hard to have "course diaries" when one isn't teaching a course. Got to do something about that. But first, more grading.


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