Monday, January 27, 2014

Grading Papers Makes My Brain Hurt

Last week, I wrote about the anti-bullying speeches my students have been working on. I'm so proud of all their hard work and effort, and the products they have created show such a vast improvement from where we began the year together.  It is pretty crazy to watch how their writing process changes and grows throughout the year.  This paper has been far less painful than the first one we wrote in September.  They really are growing into true writers, complete with their own individual styles and voices.

However, as proud and excited as I am about their development as authors, the completion of their writing process signals the beginning of my grading process, which I must confess, is my least favorite process.  On Friday, several of my students finished typing and printing their final copies, and I went home with an armful of probably 100 essays, ready and waiting to be graded over the weekend.  Guess how many I graded....THREE.  Not my best effort.

Today, as the last few students were finishing up with typing and the the rest of my kids were free writing in their writer's notebooks, I was really feeling sorry for myself, so I googled "Grading Papers," just to see what I came across.  What I found was this gem of an article that really spoke to my teacher soul about why my aversion to grading really exists. It's called "Why Teachers Secretly Hate Grading."

As I came to the end of the article, I found a link titled "5 Ways to Make Grading Easier."

I did a silent happy dance! HOORAH! Some wonderful, seasoned veteran in the field has solved the dilemma of grading monotony! To my great dismay, the author didn't solve my problems but did provide me with a few laughs and the realization that my search for motivation was really turning into procrastination again.

Here's the thing, I don't dislike grading because I don't want to read my students' work.  I LOVE to read their writing! I find it so inspiring to see truly beautiful imagery and metaphor converge on a page with research they've done themselves.  Seeing the synthesis of their learning is a big teacher win for me.  I dislike grading papers because I've been there through the writing process.  I've seen the effort and the commitment that's gone into the writing (or lack of it).  Instead of having to tick off a rubric for the sake of the parent and the sake of Edline, I want to be able to just tell it like it is.  The other reason I really struggle with grading an assignment like this is that it's one thing to grade twenty-five research papers, but it is another thing entirely to grade almost 150.  I can break it down or leave papers at work or try any number of things to make it feel like less than that, but the truth of the matter remains.  I will grade 150 papers.   By the end, I feel like it's hard to be fully engaged in the reading process. Unfortunately, if I'm honest with myself, that last group of papers is going to get the short end of the stick when it comes to feedback.

So now that I've griped a little bit (and procrastinated for a little longer), I'm going to go grade some papers.  And when I've finished grading all of them, I'm going to take some advice from that article and reward myself with a personal champagne toast to the progress my students have made in their writing this year and to myself for sticking it out and getting the job done.  Here's to hoping I don't find anything else to distract me today!


  1. Your post brings back memories of when I was a 6th grade language arts teacher. I, too, was with my students throughout the writing process, conferencing multiple times along the way. And I, too really disliked when it was time to put on a final grade.

    I was in the classroom before computers were very accessible, so all of our work was done on paper only. On rare occasion, we were able to word process final copies. As I think back on that and think of the digital tools we have easier access to now like Microsoft Word and Google Docs where you can leave an easily documented trail of conferencing/comments as the students' work evolves, I wonder if it wouldn't be easier/simpler to post several process grades along the way, rather than having to post one comprehensive grade at the end of the writing project?

    Does this idea strike you as a workable possibility?

  2. I think this is definitely a workable possibility! I'm using Google Docs with two of my six classes this semester. I wanted to try it on a smaller scale before fully implementing. So far, it's made it so much easier for me to collaborate with my students and for them to provide each other with meaningful feedback. The revision history would also be helpful in taking process grades because it shows whether students are actually revising based on the teacher and peer comments.

    Next year I hope to move all of my writing instruction into Google Drive. It gives kids access from anywhere on almost any device, cuts down on paper, and makes it easier for me to give feedback. I think it will make my grading experience much more pleasant.