The Stages of Grading, as Illustrated by Gollum

Left: How I look in front of the classroom; Right: How I look when grading Image courtesy of Tumblr

Left: How I look in front of the classroom; Right: How I look when grading
Image courtesy of Tumblr

I recently stumbled across this article that pretty accurately describes the stages of grading. It is loosely based on Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief.

A while back, I actually collected a few images of Gollum with expressive faces (because that is what I do in my spare time) and decided to whip that up into a blog post. For your reading pleasure, here are Michelle Greco’s stages of grading, or what every teacher experiences when reading mounds of crappy papers.

  1. Students turn in freshly printed (though probably not proofread) papers in front of you. You are hopeful that, unlike last time, you will not leave these to the last minute to spare yourself from a glut of student writing.

    So doe-eyed. So naive. Image courtesy of Reddit.

    So doe-eyed. So naive.
    Image courtesy of Reddit

  2. You know you should begin grading…but you still need to finish that show on Netflix. Also, when was the last time the bathroom had a good scrub? This isn’t procrastination, it’s super productivity.

    Note the similarity in naivete to stage 1. Image courtesy of Giphy.com

    Note the similarity in naivete to stage 1.
    Image courtesy of Giphy.com

  3. You finally begin. And then you come across the first typo. Then the second. And then you read the sentence, “The two fictional short stories…are two great stories to compare life lesions,” and you know it’s going to be a long slog.

    Image courtesy of parismatch.com

    Dear God, why? Image courtesy of parismatch.com

  4. A student makes a logic jump in his or her argument that defies all rules of time and space. (Alternately, “You keep using that word/argument. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”)

    Image courtesy of filmicgames.com

    Image courtesy of filmicgames.com

  5. Can it be? It is! A well-written student paper that makes a solid argument!

    My precious! Image courtesy of geocaching.com

    My precious!
    Image courtesy of geocaching.com

  6. If you have to read one more sentence beginning with the words “this shows that,” “in my opinion,” or “this relates back to my point of…,” you may just run screaming for the hills and never look back.

    "I said don't compare and contrast! It's on the syllabus!" Image courtesy of cgw.com

    “I said don’t compare and contrast! It’s on the syllabus!”
    Image courtesy of cgw.com

  7. A student writes a paper so terrible that you can freely fail it. You feel no remorse for the easy grade.

    It is a fair decision...yet so diabolical. Image courtesy of motheringthemanic.com

    It is a fair decision…yet so diabolical.
    Image courtesy of motheringthemanic.com

  8. You are two-thirds of the way done. So close! …And yet, so far.

    Image courtesy of theathleticnerd.com

    Image courtesy of theathleticnerd.com

  9. You’ve made it. You were bloodied, bruised, and beaten senseless by the gross misuse of language and reason in all those papers, but dammit, you have risen from the ashes triumphant. Now for some ice cream and a nap.

    Image courtesy of pophangover.com

    Image courtesy of pophangover.com

If We Were Having Coffee…Winter Edition

No picture of me with a drink today. I'm sniffly :(

No picture of me with a drink today. I’m sniffly 😦

(Not sure what this series is about? Check out the first post here!)

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I’m not quite ready for school to start. For as much as I enjoy teaching, the holiday break didn’t quite feel like enough time. Perhaps this is because I was sick through most of break (see above photo) and am still trying to get over whatever it is I have. I had my first day of class this past Thursday and am happy to report it went well. This week starts the real grind with assignment sheets and keeping up with reading and grading.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that Poetry Monday is on a hiatus. My poetry well is experiencing a bit of a drought. I started Poetry Monday because my cup was full, and I had so much to share. Now I’m struggling a bit, so I’m putting it on an indefinite hold (though I’ll reassess at the mid-year point) to fill my well again. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing other fun things on Mondays (and other days too).

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I just wrote a letter to a friend. And it felt awesome! I think letter (or card) writing is a long lost art. Sure, people do it during the holidays, but what about the rest of the year? I vote we bring back snail mail somethin’ fierce!

I’d ask you what you thought of letter writing. I’d also ask when was the last time you wrote an honest-to-goodness handwritten letter.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that so far, I’m doing OK with my New Year’s resolutions. I think trimming down the number of goals has a lot to do with it. My goals also focus on areas of my life I really want to improve rather than on areas I “should” improve. Perhaps my favorite goal to work on thus far is daily meditation. I find I look forward to this practice. Who knew sitting still for a few minutes each day could be so rewarding?

I’d ask you what you hope to accomplish this year.

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that I want to offer one or two writing e-courses this summer and am nervous about it. The usual questions pop up (What if no one signs up? What if people sign up but don’t like it? etc). I’d tell you that I’ve been pushing those thoughts aside and have been trying to move forward.

I’d also tell you there was a way you could help me form these courses. I’ve prepared a short, eight-question survey to gauge interest in these types of courses as well as collect stats on the type of content people would love to see in a writing e-course. Interested in giving your two cents? Take the survey!

If we were having coffee…I’d tell you that my life has all the marking of an adult life, but I still feel like a kid. I’m married. I have a somewhat steady income from my freelance work. I pay rent. But I’m always silly! I don’t know…I guess I figured that at some point I’d feel like I knew what I was doing. I’m actually just enjoying playing….that seems like the real me. I feel like even when my husband and I decide to have kids, we’ll still play. Perhaps that’s a big part of what parenting is: showing your kids how to play well at life.

I’d ask you if there was a moment that really made you feel like an honest-to-goodness adult.

Now it’s your turn! What would you tell me if we were having coffee?

Librarian’s Spotlight – Tara Anderson

Today’s Librarian’s Spotlight features a lovely lady whose blog I’ve been following for some time now. While reading her blog, I’ve found she’s had some really cool things to say about being in a PhD program, YA lit, and many other bookish topics. It’s my pleasure to present this wonderful, informative interview with librarian and blogger extraordinaire, Tara Anderson!

me circleRoaring Out: Please introduce yourself and speak a bit about your background with libraries.
Tara Anderson: Hi! I’m Tara Anderson, and I finished my MLIS in School Library Media in 2010. I worked in a middle school library for three years before deciding to go back to school and get my PhD. I originally wanted to do my PhD in Library Science, but decided that a PhD in education would be me more marketable when looking for tenure-track faculty positions upon graduation. Fun fact: I was voted “most likely to be a librarian” in fifth grade.

RO: What made you want to become a librarian?
TA: I became a librarian with the specific intention of becoming a school librarian. I taught middle school for a few years, and did a lot of lessons in the school media center. The school librarian suggested that I might make a good school librarian with my love of books and my tech skills, so I applied to library school and took the plunge.

RO: You are currently working on your PhD in YA literature. What is your least favorite aspect of getting your PhD? What is your favorite aspect of getting your PhD?
TA: My favorite aspect of getting my PhD is having a lot of freedom in what I do with my days. I get a lot of control over my classes and the papers I write within those classes. And even though I spend a lot of time on studying and research, I can do a lot of it from local coffee shops. My least favorite part is always feeling like I should be doing more. There are always so many things on my to-do list!

RO: Librarians have been pegged with several stereotypes. Are there any that you find particularly amusing?
TA: I find the sexy librarian stereotype rather amusing. I’m kind of the opposite of that. I like the idea that we can be sexy and smart, but I think personal brand of sexy is a little outside of what that stereotype is portraying.

RO: What is your favorite database/online resource? Why?
TA: I was always a fan of procon.org . A lot of middle school projects have students practicing argumentative essays or exploring issues in politics or science. The site is a good starting point for these essays, clearly defining both sides of the issues. It is designed for students, and fits all of the criteria for “trustworthy resources” that we try to teach in middle school: it has citations, a clear creator, and well-organized content.

RO:What book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you would recommend? Conversely, what book are you currently reading, or have recently read, that you not would recommend?
TA: I’m currently reading Noggin by John Corey Whaley, and it is brilliant! The premise that a kid has his head cryogenically frozen when he gets really sick from cancer, and comes back to life 5 years later when they connect it to another body. The science is supposed to be a little wacky, but the story itself is an interesting exploration of second chances. As for a book I wouldn’t recommend, I just finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and found it obnoxiously pretentious.

RO: Your blog, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh, is really such a wonderful place for literary types. What prompted you to start your blog and expand your love of books outside the library’s walls?
TA: My blog started as a blog in my media center, but it become very clear within a month that I wanted to say things a little too controversial for a middle school blog. I decided to move from Blogger to WordPress and pursue a personal blog.

RO: You have a very consistent posting schedule (posting once every weekday. With all that you juggle, how are you able to keep up with all of your posts and the comments they receive?
TA: I schedule everything ahead of time! The blog in general has a posting schedule that forces me to spread my content out. I do reviews on Mondays and Thursdays, quotes on Fridays, I post about graduate school on Wednesdays, and I usually do Top Ten Tuesday lists on Tuesdays. I’ll sit down while watching TV and write 4-5 posts when I’m feeling inspired. I have a calendar that I use to keep up with it all. The nice thing about the schedule is that a crazy week at school can go by and I might only miss 1 or 2 posts, rather than a whole week. If I disappeared tomorrow, the blog would run itself through mid-May!

RO: The Internet is full of wonderful resources for librarians, and you are active on many of those outlets. What do you love about connecting with other librarians/bookish types via social media and your blog?
TA: There is no possible way that I can read all of the books that I want to read or that kids want to read, but I really do feel like I know about a lot of books I haven’t read from reading reviews and musings on other blogs. Some of my fellow bloggers are still in high school, so they are also a good resource for thinking about YA books from the perspective of actual YAs. They have been a great resource, and I’m currently thinking about involving them in my dissertation in some way.

RO: We all know that kids say the darndest things. In your experience as a middle school librarian, what is the funniest interaction you’ve had with a middle-school patron?
TA: Middle school kids are nuts. In a good way, of course! I think my funniest interactions were with my TV news crew. We used to do the daily announcements on the closed-circuit television system. They used to come up with very creative ways to force me to play the news anchor for the day. I was supposed to just supervise and they knew I hated being on camera. One time they all changed into non-uniform shirts just before the news, knowing that I could not let them on the air out of uniform. It wasn’t something they could get away with all the time, but it was hilarious and they were so clever about!

RO: What is something librarians do that, in your opinion, should be considered a superpower?
TA: I’m pretty sure I can tell what’s happening on 24 computer screens at once. The kids used to joke that I can tell who is sneaking on Facebook from across the room.

RO: Going off of that question, if you could have a skill that is traditionally considered a superpower, what would it be?
TA: I would want to be able to be invisible at will. I’m a curious person and I would sneak into all kinds of meetings. I think this is why I want to be a researcher—I like observing people.

RO: Lastly, what advice would you give to someone who is considering going into the library science field?
TA: Jobs are pretty scarce right now, but not impossible. Have a pretty good idea of what you want to do before starting library school. I was able to land a school library job because I was already in the school system and had connections. However, some of my classmates are still looking for school library jobs (3 years later) because they have no classroom experience or connections and the schools are on hiring freezes. For anyone not looking into school libraries, being able to spread your job search across the whole country, or at least a region, will also help. Many of my classmates are unemployed or underemployed because jobs in general right now can be hard to come by. I know that sounds pessimistic, but it is realistic.

 

Thanks, Tara, for your advice and insight! If you’d like to keep up with Tara’s happenings, follow her on her blog or on Twitter.

10 Lessons I Learned from Teaching

English: Sahab Library

English: Sahab Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s five days until Christmas, and while most people are thinking of presents and family, I’m rejoicing that my finals grades are in!

This semester was both the hardest and most rewarding for me. I taught five classes at two different colleges. It was a juggling act, and the past four months have felt like a crash course in time management and interpersonal relations. Now that I can look back in retrospect, it was totally worth it (in fact, I’m teaching five courses again next semester).

As with all experiences, I’ve learned a lot this semester, which marks my year and a half of teaching.  Here are the top points:

1. Be specific – Students forget things. Students can be dense. And you have to remember that this is, most likely, not a student’s only class.  There’s a lot to keep track of for both you and your lovely horde of 18 year olds, so make it easier on yourself and be specific. Let them know exactly what’s expected. If they break the rules, most will be good at admitting it. And be prepared to repeat yourself…a lot.

2. Know your students and yourself – One of my main goals at the beginning of the semester is to get every one of my student’s names down.  Knowing them makes students feel like you care (and makes it easier to call them out when they’re being silly 😉 ). As the semester goes on, you also get to know your students, their limits, and your limits. You’ll know which students try to get away with murder and which are just having a bad week. And you know when you just can’t accept another late paper because if you have to grade one more grammar-mistake-riddled assignment, you might just run screaming from the building.

3. It’s not you, it’s…no, it’s you – Some students (no matter how hard you try) just won’t give a shit.  Don’t take it personally. Pour your heart and resources into those who do care and who will listen to you.

4. Sometimes, you just have to commiserate – This might sound callous, but after a hard day of not one student listening/understanding you or a lesson plan flopping or a hard night of grading, you just need to sit in the teacher’s lounge and blow off some steam with colleagues. Sometimes, those you teach with turn out to be the best therapists and problem solvers.

5. Most likely, you study harder than quite a few of your students – I know I do. And it gets frustrating. “You mean I spent three hours prepping for this lesson with an additional three hours to catch up on grading, and you didn’t even take fifteen minutes to read the three-page essay for today?” Yeah, it happens. But you keep on trying your best. (See point 3).

English: The main reading romm of Graz Univers...

6. No one told me there’d be a paper party – I knew there’d be lesson planning and grading, but paperwork? I find myself constantly putting reams of forms in the “interoffice mail” bin. Am I exaggerating? Perhaps. Will my description feel spot on if you are a teacher? Yes.

7. No one gets into teaching for the grading – I love being in front of the classroom. I love hearing what my students have to say. I even (usually) love reading what they have to say. But evaluating it all? Not so much. Though I do have to say that www.engrade.com makes my life infinitely easier by calculating all my grades. It’s a wonderful free resource (Hint for all my fellow teachers!). Hey, I’m an English professor. You do the math 😉

8. Teaching is like a zombie (it wants your brains) – Hours of lesson planning and grading can be all consuming. You will emerge from a long night of this and only be able to communicate using unintelligible grunts. Which brings me to number 9…

9. Be kind to yourself – Not all classes will be winners (i’m speaking of lesson plans here, not students). Some days, it will feel like all the work you are putting in is futile. Don’t beat yourself up, and, most importantly, take “you” time (because you will get burnt out). Take a weeknight or a weekend for yourself. Put the folder of papers and stacks of books away, get a bowl of ice cream, and marathon your favorite show (if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, go outside, see the sun, and, perhaps, even have a drink or two). Students can wait another few days to get a paper back. They really won’t mind, and they’ll appreciate having a well-rested, good-humored professor to show for it.

10. You get around to some students, even if it takes a while – I know I’ve griped quite a bit about students not listening or turning in assignments late. Every job has it’s rough moments. I got into teaching because I love it. I love diving into literature texts and discussing the serial comma. I love having discussions and answering students’ questions.

I love it even more when students answer each other’s questions, showing me that they “get” it. I love it even more when a student who only wrote in sentence fragments at the beginning of the semester can now making a cohesive argument. I love it even more when I get an e-mail from a student telling me that I made English bearable and even a little fun. That is why I do what I do—for even, just a moment, to show them the power of the written word. It sounds like some idealistic notion out of a work of fiction, but it does happen…and, for me, it makes the journey worth it.

If you teach, what wisdom do you have to share?  If you are (or have been) a student, what do you wish teachers knew?

Poetry Monday – Taylor Mali

Thanks for joining me once again for Poetry Monday!  This week I submit final grades for my five courses.  So in the spirit of learning and lauding teachers for their hard work, I’m reading Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make” from his book “What Learning Leaves.”  Enjoy!