Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The unbearable tristesse of grading.

Not that I'm actually grading. Not at all. I'm getting ready to grade. This means making contact with a handful of students who have been there all along, who have contributed in various ways to the class, and yet who have, somehow, managed not to turn in enough major assignments that the inescapable conclusion is--as in I cannot escape it--they will not pass. So: emails. You know, and then waiting for emails.

Perhaps you might say why are you doing this now? why didn't you do this weeks ago? At least these are questions I am asking myself. To which I reply, to myself: I was doing some things. Important things. Or anyway, I don't know, stop yelling!

It's kind of noisy around here, all the yelling, while I'm getting ready to grade.

Today was the last--the very last--day of teaching this semester. My poetry class met and we assembled our beautiful folios and then had a reading. When the students had a broadside from every other student, signed, I watched for a moment as they assembled and reordered their collections. It was perfect. It was everything I hoped for--the work of their colleagues collected in their hands.

This is why, at the moment, I feel a little sad. In fact, I had to lie down for a moment, that's how blue.

The way it works is, you prepare to grade (by grading, if you know what I mean). Then, you face the actual shape and scale of the reading ahead of you. You pace yourself (this is the luxury way of grading--if you are rushed, then your pace is a rush, and it is horrible and I do not recommend this rush strategy). You realize that you will be reading for a few days. You settle in for the pleasures (and frustrations and despair) of it all.

Essentially, you grade your way out of the melancholy, and that is good. It's the way of teaching, and it's a good way.

I am not at the moment on the 'having surmounted the sadness' side of grading. Also, I am still in need of more sleep. Tomorrow, I believe, it begins. And in a few days, I will feel better. If you're a teacher and you're about to grade, you will too.

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