The end of the pile…

Those who have made a habit of glancing at the progress bars in my sidebar will note that I am nearly done grading my midterm essays for this semester.

I love teaching writing, but the grading, that’s the rub. It kills me every time, and for some reason, I always forget about this fact and take on too many writing classes. Well, two writing classes would be okay, if only I were wise enough to get the midterms desynchronized enough to give myself two weeks of reasonable marking work, instead of one week of insanely intense grading.

Anyway, I’m halfway through the last essay in the pile, and extremely happy to be there. Not that there haven’t been, among the brief inane reads, some fascinating pieces. I really do think that the campus English magazine needs to be opened up to professor-prompted submissions from students campus-wide, and the teams who are currently working on the magazine can focus on reading the submissions and choosing the best, because to be honest, the writing quality of 85% of my students is better than the best of the student reporters.

Not only that: from discussions of the politics of once-imperial societies’ museum holdings (in terms of “plundered national treasures” from their ex-colonies) to a sharp and thoughtful analysis of the need to reform and reassess the human rights situation of non-Western foreign labourers in Korea, there are tons of students writing and thinking interesting things. In fact, I have to say that the essays in the pile I’ve worked through in the last couple of days mostly have restored some of my faith in the youth of this country. There are people worrying about the things that worry me. There are people who think that jingoism is a stupid answer to real problems. There are people who can see bullshit and are intelligent enough to explain why it’s bullshit. And there are people who can construct sane, passionate arguments about things they really care about.

This is the first semester that I’ve really gotten through to a large number of my students about the importance of writing about things they really care about. The result is actually quite amazing — one guy even wrote an interesting 5-page analysis of the different types of plays one can use in basketball, their advantages and disadvantages, and why players must master both of the kinds he discussed.

And I was actually interested.

In a discussion of basketball technique.

Actually interested.

Anyway, the end of semester will be a lot easier. Students will be submitting two more things to me: a form-mastery-project which will be basically graded only in terms of check-marks — write all the instalments of the project, get all the checkmarks and get full marks for the project — and the final drafts of their essays. The final drafts will come in during the second-last week of classes, and I’ll meet them once during finals week, just to briefly do a little fun exercise or two, and then bid them Merry Xmas and all that. I’ll be grading them slowly, and turning my grades in a week or two after the end of classes, so no strain there — I can grade two or three essays a day and still get done in two weeks. Whew!

But yeah, for all my busting a gut, and scratching my head, and straining my eyes, I’ve actually enjoyed a good many of the 56 essays I’ve read in the past week.

Huh. Go figure.

UPDATE (12:39am): Done! Yay! Sniffle.

2 thoughts on “The end of the pile…

  1. I had a prof one semester in college who was legally blind. He assigned us to groups and we had to write essays in groups (3 over the course of the semester), and it was a lot easier for HIM not to have to grade 25 essays, but a mere 5.

    (I discovered some strengths in that class that I wouldn’t have found otherwise, and for that I’m grateful. And hey, any class that has Neuromancer on the required reading list can’t be all bad….)

  2. Interesting idea, though. The French professor here mentioned that she does this in French writing classes–has the students write things like a complaint letter to the landlord in groups, partly as a coping mechanism for them since writing in French is freaking hard.

    Well, I do have students working on collaborative work, but not for their final essays, just for checkmarked assignments. I’m not so hot on grading group assignments, as some people get better than they deserve, and some get worse.

    Though I’ve found, in Korea, often the bottom-level students and top-level students gravitate to one another when pair work is announced, for some reason, and talkative students often end up in groups with other talkative students.

    And, very oddly, in larger discussion group exercises, the groups that form on the left-hand side of my classrooms (my left) tend to sit quietly when they should be discussing things, and the groups that form on the right side tend to discuss quite actively. Maybe this relates to the fact the exit from the room is often on my left? Actually, it bears out– the exceptions are the rooms when the exit is on the right, and the reverse pattern establishes itself. I could probably grade participation based on seating arrangement–graphed off proximity to the front windowside corner of the room, or distance from the back doorsde corner(s), and have a reasonably accurate representation of participation in all classes except one writing class.

    That’s fascinating!

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