Grading

I’m deep inside that dreaded heart of darkness we academics call Final Grading. 

For the next four days, with the final grade report deadline looming, I’ll predictably receive several annoying untimely interruptions in the form of student emails, asking about grades. I will ignore them, and grumble, and think dark thoughts. Or better, I’ll just pull the plug and begin an overdue Internet/email holiday.
But I  shouldn’t be thinking dark thoughts about grading, I should just be getting on with it and trying to enjoy it. It’s not really evil, it’s just dark thinking that makes it seem to be.
So, to get my head in the right space, a self-motivational repost from the vault:

Grading the harvest, 11.1.12. Grading. I always dread it, because there will always be a percentage of essays written so sloppily or slap-dash as to be literally painful and embarrassing to read. But then, when I’m actually doing it, I rediscover the other and better– not necessarily greater– percentage of thoughtful,  careful, amusing, even inspiring essays that almost redeem the whole business. Just don’t rush me.
My problem with grading ultimately is not the time-consuming process of reading and commenting on essays. That, after all, is one of the best ways I get to learn, and learning is the great boon of teaching for us all.  My problem is with the false implication that assigning a grade is the most accurate form of student assessment and evaluation. I agree with Alfie Kohn:
The best evidence we have of whether we are succeeding as educators comes from observing students’ behavior rather than from test scores or grades. It comes from watching to see whether they continue arguing animatedly about an issue raised in class after the class is over, whether they come home chattering about something they discovered in school, whether they read on their own time. Where interest is sparked, skills are usually acquired. Of course, interest is difficult to quantify, but the solution is not to return to more conventional measuring methods; it is to acknowledge the limits of measurement.

Anyway, back to it. Wendell Berry’s work poem this morning is on point.

Whatever is foreseen in joy

Must be lived out from day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.


No, of course it’s not that hard. Grading isn’t farming. But it’s true, as in farming a good day’s grading has it’s moments of stress and strain. But overall, it elevates a teacher’s sense of mission. Spiritualizes it, even. It’s our version of bringing in the sheaves.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood

Rests on our day, and finds it good.


So, back to the field. The crop’s got to come in.

via Blogger http://jposopher.blogspot.com/2013/12/grading.html

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