Grading is one of the most stressful parts of my job. Some people have a hard time planning. Others have a hard time with classroom management. Me? It's grading. It's the act of grading, and anticipating it, that I find stressful. That fifteen question quiz seemed easy, until there's a stack of 100 waiting for me to grade them.
Once I actually get to grading, it's not so bad. In fact, it's kind of mind-numbingly relaxing. I can grade several things while watching some good trash television. Somehow it always seems so much more daunting when I'm looking at that giant stack of papers.
My students always have the same solution when I've mentioned how I hate grading. "Well, then don't grade it! Give us all hundreds!" If only it were that easy, my lovely children. However, the issue is that I'm meant to teach you something, not babysit you. How else can I find out if you've learned something if I don't grade it?
You see, here's the thing about grades. Grades aren't a punishment or some kind of label on who you are as a person. No. Grades are about how much you've learned. Grades reflect just as poorly on me if everyone fails. I throw out quizzes when everyone performs poorly. Grades are my report card on how well I've taught that day, week or unit. If more than 50% of my students are failing, there's something wrong with my teaching, the curriculum or the materials; not my students.
One of the worst parts of grading for me is the fairness. I'm a bleeding heart. If some kid tells me about all of the horrible things they've endured, sometimes it's hard for me to remember to grade them on the same level as everyone else. It's so hard not to just exempt kids that have a hard time. Then I have to remind myself that just exempting them from the important stuff isn't doing them, or their future teachers, any favors. They won't learn the skills that they need to move on to the next level, but they'll move on anyway. And then their teachers the following year might not accept the same excuses as me, putting both student and teacher in a frustrating position. Even if the teachers accept excuses all the way through school, that student is going to hit the real world eventually. And in the real world? The real world doesn't accept excuses very often.