Now some might be shocked at that notion because they’ve always imagined or heard stories about teachers staying up late at night grading papers. Honestly, there are some teachers that do that, but I’m not one of them (I used to be). I’m somewhat task oriented – borderline OCD when it comes to completing tasks;] For example, if I have 50 short stories to grade, I will try my best to grade them during a specific planning period that I have designated for grading or allot about a 2 hour time frame after school to get it done. I can remember one student telling me, paraphrasing of course, “you should make it easy on yourself and not give us so much work, so you don’t have to grade it.” I thanked him for his kindness, and let him know they didn’t hire me to take it easy. I must mention, this whole notion of grading during planning period only works if you have lesson planned in advance. I don’t mean a day or two; I mean a quarter or two.
To the notion that a teacher has to bring work home. If that’s the path you take, it’s a quick way to burn yourself out. During my 2nd year, I was doing that a lot. It was mostly due to the fact that I was lesson planning about three weeks before the actual lesson plan was meant to be delivered. I digress, this year, I’ve themed my grading around immediate feedback. At the beginning of the year, I asked students if they had ever had a teacher take more than a week to grade something they had turned in, hands popped up. I thought, no big deal. I asked them if they had turned things in and it took longer than that, hands popped up. I told them that they didn’t have to worry about that in this class. For example, Language Arts/Literature quiz assessments occur on Fridays. They take the test in an allotted amount of time, test is completed, students chose a book for Sustained Silent Reading for an allotted amount of time, they journal for an allotted amount of time, and I grade during the students structured activity [see Egg Timers Aren't For Cooking to understand how I move the class forward]. This is just one example of multitasking in order to give the kids immediate feedback. Once they are done with Sustained Silent Reading and their journal, we move one to Galileo/AIMS Preparation. At the end of class, students get to see their quiz score. It’s a win/win. I’m done grading that class period’s quizzes, and the class gets to know what they’ve earned.
Using a Grading Rubric was the best thing I’ve ever decided to do for my Language Arts/Writing class. It set expectations for students, and it saved time. That being said, corrections and comments coincide with that Grading Rubric. I did it for two reasons. The first reason being, I found myself grading a paper (beginning of last year), and I realized I hadn’t explicitly made my expectations clear to the students. For example, when assigning the work, I didn’t go over the five categories that I would be focusing on while grading. I might as well have said, “good luck.” The second reason, I can remember when I was in 9th or 10th Grade, and how it felt to get papers I put hard work into and get nothing in return. I used to get papers back with absolutely no comments and/or rubric, and it was frustrating. Frustrating because I didn’t believe the teacher actually took the time to read my work and give the proper insight as to how I could get better as a writer. I didn’t want to be that kind of teacher, so that’s why I decided to use a rubric when handing out major writing assignments.
All that being said, I’m actually sitting here grading one last short story that was turned in late (see picture above & to the left). As in life, there is always an exception to the rule. I do take work home occasionally, I do tweak lesson plans the night before, and I do work on the weekends (ask my wife…lol). However, I try to do it within moderation, and it becomes a lot easier to be moderate when you’ve used a portion of the summer to lesson plan for the entire upcoming year. When that happens, it’s smooth sailing because you allow yourself to enjoy the kids in class, think of other things to add to your units and/or lesson plans, complete other numerous tasks that have been handed to you, and not lose sight of trying to get better as a teacher inside the classroom.
If you would like to see any of my rubrics, please go the Writing Assignments section on this blog [here]