Wednesday, January 17, 2007

If I'm Doing This to Myself Now....

Edited to Add (11:40 AM): Ok, so after my little tantrum this morning I graded all my papers, and I taught what I think was actually a really awesome class. Go figure.

I'm up at this bright and early hour because even at this early juncture in the semester I have put off grading until the last possible moment. Now, this isn't "real" grading - it's a short assignment - the first one that they've completed - but I feel obligated to return it today (in less than one week's time) because their second assignment is due on Friday.

Now, in theory I really believe in evaluating student work early and often, so that students get a sense of one's expectations right up front, so that students can track their progress, so that I can try to minimize the tendency to grade-grub. (I find the more assignments or "opportunities to succeed" I offer, the less bitching I hear at the end of the day, which I suppose is a time-saver ultimately, right?)

The problem here, though, is that in practice I. Am. Sick. Of. Grading.

I know, cry you a river, etc. And how can I be sick of grading in week two of the semester, and right after a long weekend?

It's composition. I am burnt the fuck out on teaching it, I resent teaching it, I barely like my students anymore, and my "pedagogy" if you can call it that in these courses is just to try to plan as much crap to pass the time quickly as possible, as neither I nor the students want to be there. (You may be surprised to note that on evals. my highest score is often on the one that evaluates my "passion for teaching" and that the most frequent written comment I get from students is "you can tell she really loves teaching." Yes, even in my comp. classes. I'm thinking that if this whole professor gig doesn't work out that I should probably try my hand at becoming an international film star.)

Part of what I'm trying to do is to strategize for the possibility that I will not ultimately get another job offer that will lessen my composition load, and to come up with a convincing argument for those who control my teaching schedule to give me a bit of a break from comp - to teach just one section of it in the fall and no sections of it next spring - but I'm not sure whether even the persuasive me can effect such a change.

And this semester, because I sold my soul to the administrative devil, I'm actually only teaching half of the comp students I normally would - 22 instead of 44 (yep, that's right folks - normal load is 44 every semester, in addition to two lit classes, and that's if they don't exceed the 22 enrollment cap. And students never drop my classes anymore, which is very frustrating indeed. I should note that the NCTE recommends that the cap should be something like 16 in comp classes). Since I need to get out of the clutches of the administrative devil at the end of this academic year in order to remain a sane and lovable and not-evil person, that means that if I can't pull some sort of rabbit out of a hat, I'm actually going to be teaching more composition and not less.

But so now I've got to go and read 44 pages of student writing that I don't want to read and to comment on it enthusiastically as if I care about what they've written and care about their ability to become better writers, even though I don't believe that I can make them into better writers. It is mentally and emotionally exhausting, and I hate it.

(By the way, this is a venting post, so please take it as such.)


Anonymous said...

Teaching comp can indeed be emotionally and mentally exhausting. I've had as many as 120 comp students in a given semester, and I used to come home a raving nut after a day of classes. (ah, the things I have heard!) But I learned I just can't be that way and survive.

This is obvious, I realize, but pacing oneself is key. The hard part of pacing, though, is realizing that in any given class of, say, 20, there will be 5 who get it and can improve -- and these 5 may not necessarily be the 5 "A" students. The rest? Who knows? Who cares? One way or another, though, they'll be fine, they'll have nice lives and do quite well -- clearly, one doesn't need to write well in order to thrive and succeed. I've seen enough bad writing in professional workplaces, and I'm referring to things written by the higher ups, to make a comp instructor's head spin. So let the also-rans be, be charming and funny and engaging in class, flatter them from time to time (it's good for the evals), then give them a "B" or "B+" so they'll leave you alone, and you get on with the rest of your life.

jo(e) said...

I just want to say I am happy to see someone else venting about grading. I don't like to be the only one complaining.