May 11, 2014 by Jean
Today, I turned in my last-ever set of final (really final!!) grades. There are many aspects of teaching that I love; grading is not one of them. Being done with grading forever is a wonderfully free feeling. I know it’s a cliché, but this really does feel like the first day of the rest of my life.
I really had to push myself to keep going through these last days of grading. First there were the final projects from my research methods class – 18 of them, taking about 1 hour each to read and grade. I began them on Wednesday night, worked on them through much of the day on Thursday, and then brought the rest in to finish in the office on Friday. I usually try to avoid grading papers in the office because there are just too many interruptions there. This was especially true on this day, when students in one class were coming in to turn in final papers and when I had advertised an office open house to give away books. When five o’clock rolled around, I still had two research projects left to grade. But with no one else left in the department, it was quiet and I pushed through to finish them, record the grades, and put the papers out for students before I left for home.
I took Friday evening off and then dug back into grading on Saturday. I began grading the final exams in my research methods course. More importantly, I graded all the final papers in my smaller Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies class, computed the final grades, and submitted the course grades electronically. One course down and one to go!
I knew that I would only need four or five hours today to finish grading the research methods exams and to compute and submit the final grades for that class. One glitch appeared when I checked my email before going to bed last night and found an inquiry from a student in that course disputing her grade on her research project. These disputes are by far the most tedious part of grading, and this one added another grading chore to my Sunday schedule.
When I got to work at mid-morning today, I decided to deal with the disputed grade first, sending the student a long and carefully composed email explaining her grade more fully. With that out of the way, I could focus on grading the short and long essay questions on the exam. By mid-afternoon, the grading was done and the grades were submitted. It was a good finish to the course. At the beginning of the semester, I had challenged this class to make my last experience teaching research methods a good one, and they came through for me. More than half the class earned A grades on the final exam (which is extraordinary), and all but two students had course grades in the A or B range (indicating that they had learned the basics that provide the foundation for the upper-level methods course that most will take following this one).
With all my course grades submitted, I had one last teaching task to complete, one that I had purposely left for last. This was to read the final polished senior thesis written by my honors student. Chad is an exceptional student, and it has been a joy to work with him on this project all year. I had already seen and commented on many drafts of various parts of his thesis. No grading was required here, although I was looking out for any typos that would need to be corrected before the paper is deposited in the department’s archives. Sitting down with the final, polished version was pure pleasure, a wonderful way to end a teaching career.
Tomorrow I will need to get serious about getting ready to move. The moving truck comes in less than two weeks, and there is a lot of cleaning and packing to be done between now and then. But, for now, I am celebrating the fact that school’s out and grinning at the thought that I will never have to grade papers again.