It may be exam week for my students — and my daughter — but it’s grading week for me. This means that the dining room table is covered in papers, notes, knitting needles, yesterday’s newspaper, and crumpled tissues. (No, the papers aren’t making me cry, but I do seem to have a cold). It also means that my status updates have been full of self-pity and procrastination techniques. (Hence, the knitting needles.)
On Saturday, I noted that I’d rather clean my oven than grade. This was after I had, in fact, cleaned my oven—a very effective procrastination technique in that it was both time-consuming and productive (unlike my status update). What I like about Facebook, however, is that I felt instantly part of a larger community when I posted my update — friends and colleagues came flooding in with their comments, letting me know they were in the same boat. Apparently cleaning is a favored procrastination technique, though (perhaps especially at this time of year) baking is even more popular. I can attest to that one as well — I’ve got two batches of Christmas cookies and two loaves of bread in my kitchen that weren’t there when these papers first came in. Not to mention the pan of cornbread and the clean laundry.
The comments I got from friends on Facebook reminded me of all-day grading sessions I spent as a graduate student. Every year graduate students in English could earn a little extra money by grading entrance exams for first-year writing. The essays—written in haste, by hand, to rather general prompts — were rarely very good, but the money was, so we did it. Early on we set to the task quietly and seriously, but as the hours wore on a certain amount of punchiness set in. Having friends and colleagues around may have increased the punchiness, but it also made the whole thing possible — there was someone else to hear the crazy sentence, or the good one, and make you feel sane again. That’s what I felt like on Saturday as I contemplated the stack of papers — as yet ungraded — that awaited me. I needed company, and I got it, virtually.
That was all the nudge I needed, it turns out. The papers are now graded, and I hardly cleaned anything yesterday! The grades aren’t figured yet, however, as that requires math, and I need another motivational push to get that accomplished. But first, I think I may have a room to vacuum.