So that’s why I left teaching…

Staying up late on Sunday night, grading papers. Year after year. For eight years. There’s nothing like grading a stack of essays, tests, and random homework assignments, and then entering them in the computer, to really make you not like teaching. At all. They say teachers are the worst students? Watch them grade. It’s even worse than you thought. Except for the math teachers. For some reason they seem so efficient.

It’s not really why I left teaching to go into administration. But it’s what the teachers tell me. “You don’t know how lucky you have it. I wouldn’t want to be Principal but at least you don’t have to correct papers.”

Why is this topic suddenly relevant to me again? That’s right, because I am correcting papers again on a Sunday night. But unlike when I was teaching in the 1990s, I don’t have to write things by hand and I have Google Docs to make looking over essays and making comments so much easier. Still, grading really kills the joy of teaching and if you think about it even learning sometimes.

There has been so much written about assessment, grading, and the purpose of both. Some schools are going standards based, but not nearly enough. In my course (digital literacy), I’m trying many experiments around teaching and learning. I am determined to make the course about proficiency and not “the grade.” No one is going to fail unless they simply don’t turn something in. They will have all kinds of opportunities to get their work in. And as I grade, I feel somewhat guilty because I don’t ever recall telling them in the first place what would get them an “A” on their first essay other than “it had to be three pages.” I bombed that one. I actually found myself grading on how long the essays were (with some feedback on the things they wrote). It wasn’t pretty.

But back to the Sunday night grading. There has to be a better way. There has to be a way that teachers don’t have to feel like assembly line workers, sorting and arranging these monitors of ‘progress’ so that students will work harder and do what the teacher tells them. I am thinking of having them do portfolios that will be ‘graded’ based on progress and a set of criteria that we in the class all agree upon.

We’ll see how it goes. Anything to bring some joy to the work and less misery on Sunday nights. Wish me luck.

About Stephen Dexter, Jr.

Stephen is an international educator and administrator. A native of the United States, he lives with his wife Stephanie (a specialist in families in global transition) in Croatia along with his daughter and son. With a career that spans over twenty years in public, private and international schools, he writes when he can and is on a quest to discover if "text walking" is changing the human brain.
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