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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wha hoppen???

I was so sanguine when I left last night, was so relaxed this morning--and then, as the day wore on, the anxiety started to build. I know I'll get it all done--I always do--but I have no idea what happened: somehow it now feels like tomorrow will be a mad scramble, not the relaxed stroll I was anticipating yesterday. I hadn't intended to, but I came back to the office after my doctor's appointment to get some more grading done. Well, specifically, to get some commenting done: once I get to the "read it and slap a grade on it" part, things will move more quickly; it's commenting that takes real time. But even the read/slap process does take time: (I do actually read the papers--maybe not every single word, but I at least skim everything, and read good portions of each paper, so I know why I'm assigning a grade.

I also spent some time just now starting the fussy process of grade calculations--which I certainly make harder for myself than is strictly necessary, but years ago I realized I was simply going by gut and that I'd feel more secure in defending the gut decision if I had some "data" to back it up. I grant you, grading in the humanities is very much a gut process. Even when we have specific criteria by which to judge, what really determines the difference between an A thesis and a B or C thesis? We know what a thesis is meant to do, but part of the evaluation is unquantifiable (our perpetual dilemma in assessment). But still, having a mathematical equation to resort to at the end at least gives the appearance of rationality. The decision of what specific grade to give a particular assignment may still be highly subjective, but once those grades are assigned, I can (and do) add the numbers, apply the appropriate weighting of percentages toward the final grade, and come up with a number. And I will say that in the past, when students have come to me to complain about a grade, it's been very useful to be able to simply point to the math.

I also spent a little time getting the idiotic paper "permanent grade record" forms ready to be filled in. Every semester since we switched to Banner I've bitched about those paper records: in the electronic age, why the fuck do we need them? But this is just one of those hoops one is required to jump through. I used to say it about graduate school, and now I say it about applications for sabbaticals and promotion: the Powers That Be hold up various hoops for us to jump through, and all we're required to say is, "OK: in what attitude and wearing what costume?"--and then comply.

One of my colleagues always responds to onerous demands with "Or what?" You must turn in your permanent grade record forms--or what? You must put in X amount of time advising students (quite apart from the reassigned time that Paul and I get)--or what? No one has satisfactorily answered that: the big threat is "or you'll be considered in breach of contract," but it's fantastically rare for that to lead to any actual consequence (docking of pay, de-tenuring....)

In any event, I'm glad I had today to just put my head down and grind (and I did get one more little thingy crossed off the "to do" list). Paul said that Advisement was mobbed--and of course, at this point, we're hardly seeing the experienced, well-prepared students who understand the degree requirements. I'm very happy to have missed it.

Now, however, since it seems I will have to jump to work with some alacrity tomorrow, and since it's getting late, I'm leaving (again). In a moment of wild optimism, I suggested to Paul that maybe we could go out to dinner together tomorrow, but now I'm wondering how long I'll be chained to the desk (as I refuse to leave until I am utterly, completely finished). Miracles do occur, however. If I'm visited by one tomorrow, that will be lovely. If not, c'est la vie.



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