Friday, May 20, 2011


If I had been blogging this week, I rightly could have been accused of procrastinating on finishing my grading, so I didn't blog.  I did procrastinate, but it just wasn't so obvious to anyone but me.  Now, I hope, I'm finished.

But my hopes will be put through the garbage disposal of the sink of life.  I'm sure I'll hear grade protests, as the standard model for measuring student learning is pre-test, post-test, protest.

Earlier I was the one protesting.  When I entered my Doha apartment, it was swarming with "Blue Books."   I was inundated.  They were everywhere.

They filled my refrigerator, and covered my bed.

Don't even ask to see the mess in the bathroom.

Blue Books, which are used for undergraduate exams, are the cicadas of university life -- they emerge at regular cycles, they are generally annoying, and yet they never completely go away even though they make no apparent contribution to the public happiness.  Cicadas, like Blue Books, are also virtually impossible to read.

I put my gloves and gas mask on, and got to work.  One book at a time, Mark, one book at a time.....

Grading student papers is much like being a parent, with the work incredibly important, often tedious, and commonly thankless, except being a parent is not tedious or thankless, at least not in comparison to grading.  

Grading IS important to the students for almost every reason one might imagine, and others, too, if one had a better imagination.  Students care a LOT about getting the right grade, too, in the sense that the right grade is "at least as high, if not higher, than the one you gave me".  

Nothing wrong with that: I myself was, um, "grade assertive".  In college, I challenged one final grade a professor gave me all the way to the University President's office. (I won.)  My claim was not just that I got a lower grade than I deserved (ok, yeah, it was the dreaded B+, or maybe even an A-), but that the professor's grading system led to inconsistent and incoherent outcomes and so it should be reformed to eliminate those problems and, oh, by the way, I would receive an A under the new scheme.  But I was only an accidental beneficiary or the reform!  It was the principle at stake! It was a victory for justice!

The grading was going slowly.  Too slowly.  I was getting desperate.  I almost turned to Marco, Ismerelda, and Thatcher to see what happened in the next chapter.

I finally filed the grades.  Now: would anyone care to guess what the ratio of complaints to praise will be?

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