It may be the most wonderful time of the year for many people, but now that the holidays are technically over, I have to kick my grading into high gear. Yes, that’s right, along with visiting loved ones, opening presents and ringing in the new year, I have also been grading essays. Lots of essays.
Miraculously, I was able to get all of my Advanced Composition grades done before I left school for break. I decided to ignore everything else that needed to be graded in all of my other classes in order to get all of these grades finished. Unlike my Advanced Placement English classes, my Composition class is only called “advanced” because it is for seniors. We also have a plain Composition class which is for juniors. It’s more like Comp I and Comp II than anything actually advanced.
I like teaching Advanced Comp, but since it is a course that every senior at my school has to take in order to graduate, I get a wide variety of ability, interest and motivation levels in that class each semester. And that means it is always the class students are actually in danger of failing. And since those students are always seniors, I do my utmost to get their grades in as soon as possible so that students who do not manage to pass can be put into some sort of remediation to get them back on track for graduation.
Unfortunately, this year I had quite a few students who were straddling the line between passing and failing. For far too many their fate was tied up in their final. Thankfully all but two managed to pull it off. One of my kids passed with a 59.5%, but it still counts as a D- in our grading program, so thanks to the last minute effort he put in on his final, he did it. I was grading until about half an hour after the teacher dismissal bell rang, but it was worth it to walk out of the building with one set of grades completely finished.
That big push to get all my Comp grades finished meant a LOT of essays to grade for both my juniors and seniors in Advanced Placement English. Since these students are actually advanced and taking the equivalent of college level classes, the requirements for their essays are heftier, my expectations higher and the amount of grading is double my regular Comp class.
So far I’ve only managed to get two sets of finals graded. That means I have a heck of a lot to get done in the next few days. I have to make sure I have it all graded by Friday as I still have to leave some time for planning for the next grading period. While I may have the entire year sketched out, I don’t have the day to day for every class finished yet and that is what I have to get to work on. I have a feeling the next few days are going to be crammed with reading essays until my eyes start to cross and the words run together.
It is moments like this when I am reminded of the thousands of casual comments I’ve heard non-educators make over the years about how lucky teachers are to get so much “time off.” While I will absolutely acknowledge that there is a difference between having to get up at 6 am every morning, drive in to work, teach for a full day and then drive home, and the ability to schedule my work time when I want to do while sitting in my pjs and taking breaks whenever I want to, I’m still going to spend a large chunk of my “time off” working very hard to make sure my students receive the best possible feedback on their work as well as the best lessons I can put together for them.
My “vacation time,” is almost never actually a vacation. At least not like it was before I got into education or in that year I took a break from teaching to work at a book store and then in publishing. Any time I had off at those jobs was exactly that: time completely off.
While I wouldn’t trade teaching for either of those careers, I will admit that I do get nostalgic from time to time about having real vacation days.