I am sitting down to grade, in what I’m sure will be a frantic last-minute dash, the final projects for my Media and Technology Studies class at the University of Tampa. Ever since grad school, I’ve felt an intense resistance when it comes to sitting down and starting the process of grading. Once I get going I’m usually okay, but it takes me a while to commit to actually start the process of doing the work (hence, it seems, this blog post, which is a meditation on procrastination that is itself an act of procrastination, since I’m sitting here with Blackboard and my UT email open in another tab).
I don’t feel this sense of resistance, this slight wavering in the pit of my stomach, when I’m working on even the most inconsequential piece of copy for a commercial client – to say nothing of the nervous excitement and/or at least anticipated satisfaction of a job well done that I get when I’m sitting down to work on an essay or reported piece.
I don’t know exactly what it is about grading, but it is very clear that this is the part of teaching that makes teaching a burden for me. I love talking to students. I hate evaluating them. I don’t think I so much mind the act of judging them, though I’m at least taking less evil pleasure in that than I used to. Mostly, it’s just such a fucking boring process. Nothing is created by grading. Most students don’t read feedback. At the undergraduate level, only a tiny fraction of students are actually committed to doing better than they’re doing at this exact moment. Some take your constructive feedback seriously (and I’ve found an above-average concentration of that sort of student at the University of Tampa, which helps me approach grading with a bit more dedication).
And finally, maybe, what bothers me about grading is the ever-rising consciousness of how inevitably arbitrary, but simultaneously highly impactful, the attachment of these little letters are. It’s a bind, an unfulfillable responsibility that nobody should ever feel entirely comfortable with.
Either way, I can only listen to what my body is telling me. Grading makes me uncomfortable and gives me no pleasure. Writing, in all its forms, makes me happy.