For each of my three classes, I’ve graded thirteen assignments in this first quarter, including regular reading-based homework, a presentation, short formal writing and a vocabulary test. Since I have 54 freshmen this quarter, that means I will have graded 702 assignments in the first quarter of the school year. If I keep a similar pace through the year, I will have graded 2808 assignments by the end of the year, which does not include 54 midterm exams as well as 54 final exams. Even if each piece only takes me five minutes to read and grade, that adds up to fifty-nine hours spent grading this quarter alone. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the minutes and hours it takes to develop the assignments and enter those grades in my gradebook program. But even just for that, over nine weeks, I’ve spent roughly six and a half hours grading per week, and my students haven’t even turned in their first major essays yet.
Did I mention that a significant portion of this grading does not get done during the school day, due to actually teaching classes, attending a variety of meetings, and prepping for the next class I’ll teach? Do I shudder when I think of how many pieces of graded work my public school colleagues review each quarter, with their exponentially higher teaching loads? As an independent school teacher, however, this also means that I will write comments on each of these students for their first quarter report cards, comments of 5-8 formally written sentences discussing the student’s performance, personality, and aptitude, as well as recommendations for future success. I also did this for my freshmen at interim time, and will do it again several times during the academic year.
Now, am I unhappy to do all of this? No, absolutely not; as much as I might whine sometimes about the actual grading, I know that my grading is a key part of how I set my expectations and help my students meet them. I take great care and pride in developing my assignments, writing detailed and specific feedback on grades, and crafting and polishing my comments. I love my job, and I love performing it to the best of my ability.
The frustrating part for me is how many people have no idea of the hours that classroom teachers spend on tasks like this, the tasks students and parents don’t get to see us accomplish, the non-dynamic tasks that get done behind the scenes. I know I’ve written before about the irritating “180 days a year” public narrative, but times like this, when I’ve been grading for hours and still have a mountain of work ahead, not to mention a week’s worth of classes to prep and teach, I get a little cranky about it all over again.
- SchoolBook: If I Don’t Grade My Students’ Regents Exams, Who Will? (nytimes.com)
- Grading Policy (stevensm1.wordpress.com)