Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Reading Rainbow

The anticipation of having to read final class papers has me driven to drink. (Well, that just might be an excuse for the lovely cocktail in my hand…at an hour of the day in which one should not be imbibing.) Anyway, after spending a semester with a class you have an excellent idea of what kind of papers to expect. I grade the ones I know will be easy first, I shouldn’t do this, but I inevitably do. I start with the “easy because they are short” (and/or) “are so terrible that there’s nothing I can do” and then usually move on to the “good but problematic and I’m gonna tell you what’s good and what’s wrong” papers. The latter group takes some time. The worst group of papers, the ones I should never save for last but always do because I dread them and have to force myself to read them are the “not good at all but I put effort into this and I really deserve some form of feedback” papers. (That’s one crazy sentence I just wrote.) They take forever to grade. These papers fucking suck.

We can add an additional dimension to this paper breakdown: curiosity. Curiosity level is a distinct factor in my paper reading order. Some papers, even ones that suck, are about things I at least find interesting. Some great papers are about things that I find painfully boring. I hate staring down a paper to grade that is about tedious minutia. I know, I’m supposed to be objective— but some topics are just fucking boring. Boring because they are inconsequential, overdone, wrong, and/or just undeniably boring, boring because they just are. These papers fucking suck in a different way.

Formatting. This matters to me too. I will not allow you to become the kind of asshole whose sloppy/non-existent attention to formatting will piss off your co-authors, editors, and colleagues in your future employment years. These people take suckitude into a new realm.

Ugh, just when the semester is almost over, the impending paper stack emerges. I don’t want to think about it anymore. I’ll have another drink.


  1. I'm almost have sympathy for you, but alas, I have NINE MORE WEEKS before the end of spring quarter, so frankly, right now I wish I were in your shoes;-)

    BUT, on every other level, we are totally in sync: metholodology, reaction to boring topics, drink in hand.....

    Good luck, good doctor....

  2. Darn...a proofreading error on TEH (;-) very first line: don't spill that drink, Dr. No!!!

  3. annieem - NINE! damn. sorrryyy.

    I'm in grading jail now too. My brain is whacked 15 papers into it. I've already read some low and high quality shit. Still 3 inches of shit to muddle through so help me. Don't even get me started on format and spelling. Is it May yet?

  4. Anniem wrote: "metholodology"??????

    And really, I was NOT drinking when I typed that comment....

  5. Ah yes, the impending stack of papers suck-fest. I too am facing a stack. The most disheartening: I spent an entire class last week going over - line by line - intro paragraphs. Methodology, formatting, requirements. Three pages, no more, no less. Can't do it in less than three full pages.

    First page on first two papers: formatting off, less than three pages. I told hir: this does not meet the requirements of the assignment. Stu: Hunh? Me: You are turning it in two hours early; you can take it and rework it to meet the requirements. Stu: Uh... no? Me: You're sure? Stu: Yeah. I guess.... (Stu leaves office).


  6. Annieem: NINE, 9, IX weeks???

    Anon & Belle: MORE cocktails are needed!

    ...shit, 9 weeks????

  7. Alas, yes, 9 weeks--we are in week 3 of an 11 week term: we are on the dreaded quarter system, so we start in late September and end in mid-June.

    If the weather wasn't as stunning here as it is in September, the whole system would be even worse than it already is (pedagogically, emotionally, etc).

    Goodness, I'm practically taking over your comments today. Done now.

  8. Hey, to combine the last post with this one, you know what would make the grading more fun for all of us? To type comments instead of write them...and to choose the font that best reflects your overall assessment of the piece. I have already chosen my font for something I'm reading now that's practically incomprehensible. It shall be in green Edwardian Script, 8 pt. font, so the writer shall have to squint as much as I did. Harrumph.

    (And I left you a fun link, Dr. No, in case you haven't seen it, at the end of your last post comments.)

  9. Ooh good idea the grading! Wait, going to other comments now...

  10. I was in a good state of denial until I read this post. Drinking is in order.

    I had a friend who developed this ritual: he graded papers, wept for the future of America, and then made pie. He brought a lot of pie to the office that year.

  11. But you know students adore being marked, right? Assessments that don't follow the classic marking system produce extreme anxiety among students. Basically, you're causing a habitual erotic response for them, Dr. No, which is pretty special. Not sure if that means any less booze and pie required.

  12. Hopeful: "habitual erotic response"...whoa, that means more booze and pie are required. (I love that phrase though!)