Monday, February 28, 2011

Oh the Slog

Well, I managed to do something I thought impossible. I graded 5 projects today while taking care of Tot. (AL's at work.) I'm finally done with this batch, having done 5 each day for the last 4 days, which I realize sounds like practically nothing, but. . .ugh. It's a lot. It's a lot to take time out of being with the family on the weekends. It's a lot when there's already so much to do. And these take a lot of time. Some are fine, just having trouble at trying something new that they're going to need to master. Some are completely maddening. All of them just require a lot of commenting because I do let them revise. Eeegads. It's just the usual stuff. Some plagiarism. Some blowing the assignment off, though the major assignment-blower also hates the subject we've been covering, so I had to be careful about how to address hir's work. Part of me just wants to scream: you're wrong! and be done with it. But there are other, more serious issues to address, so I don't do that.

I want to feel triumphant because I'm finally done with this set of projects, but instead I feel deflated. I have these to hand back tomorrow, but I'm going to have to look at practically all of them again, hopefully in much better shape. There are some great points to my job that especially work for my life right now, but the teaching situation of exactly what I'm teaching and whom I'm teaching it to is not one of the perks. Basically, remember that I'm working on a project that I'm calling Turnip Studies, which is very closely related to Root Vegetable Studies. I consider myself very much a scholar of Root Vegetable Studies. My field is Vegetable Studies, but what I teach is Tomato Studies, which many people consider a part of Vegetable Studies, but it's also a field unto itself and connected to Fruit Studies (not Sisyphus's Fruit Studies) because there are so many tomatoes in the world and they are quite popular and distinctive. I can do Tomato Studies and even have some non-academic experience with Tomato Studies, but I am not a big fan and never dreamed I'd be teaching Tomato Studies quarter after quarter. (Most people in Vegetable Studies focus on Squash Studies, by the way.) I am teaching a class in Root Vegetables pretty soon (yay!), but since most of my students don't care about any vegetable but tomatoes and the occasional pepper, I don't know if anyone will sign up.

In a recent department meeting, I found myself so depressed to realize that all of the issues on the table were ones that really require members of my group to address them (and there aren't enough of us to spread them around and some of us really don't help either -- and we get no course releases for resolving these issues for the university, though that's exactly what we need to do) that I started fantasizing about lifting up and out of this situation and going to a new one. On the other hand, I look at what some of y'all are up against, and I think how well my job works for my life, if not for me, right now. For example, most of the faculty in my department live elsewhere and drive in. So it's normal that people aren't in every day, but only on the days they're teaching and for the occasional meeting. This situation is exacerbated by the fact that my department is considered non-essential to the workings of the university and that members of my department have really low morale for a bunch of good reasons. So no one expects anyone to be there beyond their duty. This works for me right now because I get to spend time with Tot during the week. Now, really I'd like to spend my career in an active thriving department where we spearhead a lot of projects. But this way I can spend my time with my family. It's all very strange because when I was in grad school thinking about the kinds of jobs I wanted, I didn't imagine a family in the mix. Of course, I couldn't imagine how having a family would change my perspective on what's important. And all that said, I really love my scholarship and love what's coming up for me in the coming months on that front. When I went up on the job market the year I got this job, all I wanted was a regular paycheck. I still want that. I can't complain.

But grading's a slog. A merciless slog. And there's more coming up.

Here's a bit of what I need to do in the next ten days:
  • Read and respond to a colleague's article.
  • Write handout for Junior's project 4.
  • Grade Junior class presentations.
  • Grade Freshman class presentations.
  • Grade Junior class projects.
  • And, by the way, I have a conference paper to write for next week.
GAH! Gotta go. Tot needs his diaper changed.


dr four eyes said...

Oh, I so understand that post-grading deflation. I feel that every single time I finish a pile...there's either another pile to be done or more coming shortly or something else to be done. And no matter what I do, I can't keep from commenting a lot. Paring back on commenting is the expedient thing to do, yes, but not the pedagogically effective thing. Gah.

Glad, though, that there's a silver lining to your job, and that you're able to spend quality time with the family, even if the teaching end of things is not so exciting.

Sisyphus said...

I so hear you about the slogging of it all!!!! I need to skim through an entire class's worth of drafts before tomorrow and can't make myself do it!

It's all about the early morning coffee-and-fear grading marathon.