good things · grading · women

Canadian Women and Mountaineering

It is that time of year. This week I finished marking a pile of essays and have to give a final exam on Friday. And I’m in the midst of a very fun and interesting interdisciplinary conference, Thinking Mountains, all about international mountain studies. 
I’m enjoying it because it has a great mix of things in my field (environmental history) and things entirely outside of my field, but which are united by a focus on particular kinds of places (mountains) and consideration of our (human) interactions with them.   
So in lieu of a proper post I wanted to plug tonight’s plenary — a roundtable conversation on Canadian women and mountaineering, which features four of the most accomplished Canadian women mountaineers and climbers, who work and play in a hyper-masculine environment. If you’re in Edmonton you should come out to it, it’s open to the public. If not, they’ll be recording the roundtable so you can check it out online in the future via the U of A’s mountains studies website.

advice · grading · teaching

Grading: the actual slog of doing it

Yesterday, I graded and gave feedback on 30 first year essay proposals. I’ve still got five or six to do, that came in late over email. Then there’s the 25 first year revised response papers that I’ve not finished yet. The 15 graduate life writing papers that came in on Wednesday, and the 15 graduate paper proposals that will all be in my email by Saturday. Oh, and I’ve got five graduate seminars to grade, too.

I’m not behind. It’s just grading season. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Wednesday, I will get 40 annotated bibliographies from my first years. And then the grad ones. I’ve got at least 40 new things coming in to grade every week until the end of term. They need really good feedback because it’s components of a stepped essay assignment. And so they also need to be turned around really fast.

I’m getting more efficient, and I hope effective, as I do this job longer, but I’ll be honest and say that the piles of grading fill me with dread. There’s just, it seems, too much of it to really do. 30 proposals in one day was a lot, and I had to do them in batches of five or six, with other tasks in between, because soon enough I run out of ways to say “a statement of commonly accepted fact is not a thesis; a thesis statement should articulate an informed opinion with which reasonable people might disagree” and “if you develop a real thesis your paper will be easier and more fun to research and write.”

(And more interesting for me to read, but never mind that.)

Sometimes I grade work submitted electronically, sometimes I work from paper, sometimes I put my notes by hand on a piece of writing, sometimes I write it up on the computer and print it. I always sign my initials right by the grade, to accept my responsibility for the assessment.

I’m not sure what works best, always, but I’m overwhelmed and procrastinating so I thought I’d try to start a conversation here: how do you get through the grading crunch?

One of my tricks: clumps. If it’s one- or two-page assignments, I’ll grade six first thing in the morning, then do something else, and then grade another six, then a break, then grade five, then something, then grade four. I find my tolerance goes down throughout the day, so the ‘clumps’ have to get smaller because I burn out more quickly. By the end of the day, my ‘clump’ of grading between other tasks might go down to one or two. So my trick is to start hard in the morning, then lower my expectations and my quotas as the day proceeds.

What do you do?