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Chuck's column: In the life of a teacher, grading can be a real grind

After 31 years of being in this business, it would make sense for me to have tired of certain components of this job. I'm human. I can't be excited about it all like I was when I was a new teacher. Certainly, I still get pumped for certain events. However, there is one part of this job I'll be happy to walk away from.

Take a guess.

Over the course of a school year, I grade over 2,000 projects and essays. That's a ton of items to read and evaluate. I don't even want to think about all the other items we grade beyond the "major" items each year. Over the span of a career, it's no wonder many of us turn to glasses at some point.

I remember sitting in a coffee shop years ago, grading papers, and suddenly realizing I was holding the papers farther away from me than normal. I actually remember the day I made the decision to get "readers" and eventually, those weren't good enough. A trip to the optometrist followed. The progression of life can be monitored each year when the doc says the glasses need to be a "tinge" stronger than the year before.

But I digress. Grading. One of the less joyful aspects of this job. When I started teaching, we assigned essays. Generally in the ballpark of two to three pages. The students would submit them, and we'd take them home for grading purposes. We'd mark the papers for grammar, punctuation, organization, logic, and the list goes on and on. Believe me. It goes on and on. Then we graded them. One year, some years ago, along came the much worshipped grading "rubric."

It's not that I'm against the grading rubric. It keeps the teacher honest, so to speak. It helps break the paper down into components. "Mechanics." "Organization." "Introduction and Conclusion." "Body Paragraphs." And within each category, a description of the breakdown as to what is being evaluated in that category. Each category also has varying degrees of success with that category. "Exemplary; Strong; Satisfactory; Unsatisfactory." Most rubrics are lengthy because each category is described for the student to understand. I see the merits of a rubric, but realistically, I have come to realize two things regarding students and essays returned to them. When students receive essays from us, they look to the last page, ignoring any and all comments we've taken time to write throughout the essay, and simply check their grade. One, they either think we don't know what we're doing, get angry and toss their paper away, or two, they got the grade they wanted and think we're doing an ok job. Most don't bother analyzing the rubric in connection with their grade.

I've made many an enemy over the years, student and parent alike, for the grade the paper received. The amount of subjectivity that goes into the final grade has been reduced somewhat by the use of the rubric. However, it's still somewhat subjective because the teacher still has to decide which level of proficiency the paper has reached.

I think I'd stay in this job longer if someone said I didn't have to grade papers any more. However, that's not the reality. The papers just keep a comin'.

Now if you'll excuse me. I have 60 research papers to grade.