I have three sections of freshmen this year. Please remind me in the spring that I don't want to sign up for this again! Two sections of freshmen, fine. Three sections, too much!
I have in recent years been moving faster and faster in my grading, because I think getting feedback quickly, while they still remember what they wrote and why, is important for student learning. But dang, 41 versions of every paper, and those papers of the 9th-grade variety -- yikes, kind of tedious! I can grade each one very quickly, but I can't grade very many in a row, because if I try I find myself losing my sense of generosity and patience.
I was beating myself up this weekend about how slowly I was grading their first major essay (and by "major," I mean four paragraphs long), and a friend -- who is in the same boat with three sections of sophomores -- told me that I had to manage everyone's expectations, both mine and the students. So when I returned the essays yesterday, I pointed out that it had taken me 9 days to grade them, and that this would be about standard for major essays. It's amazing how much I relaxed as soon as I made that the new standard. Now I can do about five a day, which is a very easy pace. And if I go faster, then great.
I'm advising the student newspaper again this year. It's not something I'm particularly passionate about, but no one else in the department is willing to do it, and I am both willing and able. So it's mine.
Last year it was actually far more work than I had realized it would be, and yet I was always disappointed in what we accomplished. I finally realized that I was comparing what we were doing with my own high school journalism experience. I went to a big public high school that had an award-winning news magazine; there were two full sections of Journalism I, plus a separate course that was Journalism II-IV. And yet I was somehow expecting that I was going to be able to recreate that experience at this small private school with only five students in Journalism, a course that I inherited from a part-time, temporary teacher who pretty much ruined the course's reputation. The student editor was a disaster, but she had been the only applicant for the position because folks were fleeing from the paper like rats from a sinking ship.
But that was then; this is now. Last year I carefully groomed two juniors to be this year's editors, and they have succeeded beyond all of my hopes! Yay for responsible, driven students!
So here's today's managing expectations: In addition to the Journalism class, there's a student club for folks who aren't in the class but want to write for the paper. That club meets every two weeks ... and I didn't attend today's meeting! The two student editors are taking turns running those meetings, so each one only has to run it once a month, and I've now set the expectation that I won't attend at all. Sure, I swung by and said a cheerful hello to everyone, but then I left the editor to run things. Hallelujah! One less meeting for me to run/attend. Yay!