It's grading season! The young scholars in my classes will be dropping off their final portfolios today, and I will lurch into a grading frenzy. In honor of this biannual event, here's Tom Holt's grading rant from my novel Professed:
Sentence fragment, word choice, unclear. Over and over. What I wanted to write was
What the fuck or bullshit or boring or YOU ARE STUPID!
But I didn’t.
Everybody I know hates grading. Even the instructors and professors who claim to love their students—and who actually may love teaching, after all—even they hate grading. It’s tough to judge and asses people and then look them in the eye day after day. Beneath that is a cold lurking fear of getting a bad evaluation from an unhappy student, a bad evaluation that can doom your career. One or two bad evaluations from terrible students can get a non-tenured faculty member’s contract canceled, and the teacher can find her or his ass out on the street with no job, no job prospects, and $150,000 or so of student debt to pay off.
And still grading is worse than that, even—grading affects the health of teachers, too. Meet some afternoon with 14 or 18 students to discuss their terrible papers and you’ll be sick the next day—students are notoriously filthy vectors of cold and flu viruses—and you’ll be depressed, too, worried for the fate of the republic after you’ve read students who assert that their “mine is maid up” or that they are not taking something “for granite,” or who argue that Hitler did some good things, like build roads (and, anyway, “It was God that judged the Jews”), or who are just plain lazy (“Both of these stories that I am comparing have similarities that me as a reader will know about when I finish reading them”). And I’m not kidding about the depression. Grade 30 or 50 papers and you will feel low, sullen, tired--you will feel like a loser, like a horrible teacher, like a total failure. The good papers—and yes, there are some good papers always—won’t cheer you up because the bad papers are bad, bad, bad. They are terrible, and they’re terrible because you’re a terrible teacher. It’s depressing. A year ago here an adjunct jumped off the west side of the football stadium and killed himself. His suicide note even made the Chronicle of Higher Education: he blamed grading for his depression—not lousy adjunct pay or not having health insurance. Grading. It’s a killer.