March 10, 2014 by Jean
When our senior students have trouble focusing on their academics and start turning in work below their capabilities, faculty say that they are suffering from “senioritis” – an affliction that becomes more and more widespread during the spring as graduation gets closer. This semester, I’m fighting my own battle with senioritis, which has mostly manifest itself in grading avoidance. Grading papers is the part of my job I am most looking forward to putting behind me, and I seem to be trying to be put it behind me a bit too soon!
For the first few weeks of this semester, I was able to have no-work weekends, spend most of Monday sorting and packing at home, and then force myself to grade the papers that had come in the previous week on Monday evening and Tuesday before teaching (and getting more papers to grade) on Wednesday and Friday. Two weeks ago, however, I fell off the wagon. I just kept procrastinating on grading a set of papers from my research methods course (which would have taken about 4 hours) and didn’t get them done before I had to write an exam for that class and before another set of papers (first drafts that would take about 15 hours to read and comment on) came in. When Friday rolled around, I realized that I had to give up on the idea of work-free weekends, and force myself to grade on Saturday and Sunday to get caught up. But, while I did do some grading on both weekend days, I continued to drag my feet and accomplished far less than I should have. Despite hours of grading on both Monday and Tuesday, only half of the first drafts were done by Wednesday. The rest (which would take another 8 hours) had to be done on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and required staying up after midnight both nights. Ugh!
A young colleague with decades of paper grading still ahead of her suggested that I might be able to use the very finite number of papers left to grade before I retire as motivation. It seemed like a good idea, so I began adding up the number of papers still ahead of me so that I could count them down each week. But by the time my count got up above 200 papers still to grade, I was feeling totally discouraged. Not such a good idea after all!
For now, I just need to keep myself slogging through each week’s papers. My goal is to stay on schedule to get each set of papers graded and returned within a week so that they don’t pile up. Maybe a month from now, I can add up the number of papers left to grade and get a total that motivates me to push through to the end. Meanwhile, I have new empathy for my students’ senioritis.