Ode on Grading (Earned)

January 28, 2013 — 2 Comments

The semester just ended, and there are papers to grade. In addition, the midterms are done, and there are essays and papers to grade. I am surrounded by paper. A recent article titled “Why Teachers Secretly Hate to Grade Papers” by John T. Tierney in The Atlantic received quite a bit of buzz, with most teachers flat out saying, “Secretly? There is nothing secret about our hating to grade!”

The article discussed the inability to be fair when grading, but I particularly enjoyed the following paragraph:

The sheer drudgery and tedium. When you’re two-thirds of the way through 35 essays on why the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of McCulloch v. Maryland is important for an understanding of the development of American federalism, it takes a strong spirit not to want to poke your eyes out with a steak knife rather than read one more. I have lots of friends who are teachers and professors. Their tweets and Facebook status updates when they’re in the midst of grading provide glimpses into minds on the edge of the abyss — and, in some cases, already deranged.

Since several of my classes are deep in the Odyssey, the “poke your eyes out” reference kicked all my Greek allusions into high gear. Consequently, instead of full-fledged blog post that will drain me of the minutes I have before grades are due, I leave you with a quick poetic attempt to capture my grading frustration:

Tantalus Has It Easy

My desk is piled high
with papers and essays that had been assigned
during the Christmas break,
when Dawn spread her rosy fingers on the
new year calendar empty of responsibilities.

Sing in me, Muse, and tell me
What was I thinking? an invocation I repeat
with each carefully completed grading rubric
stapled to a hastily penned paper.

More than one paper bears the correcting
suggestions I had made days ago without
the corrections I suggested. I am Cassandra,
unhappy prophetess whose warnings
go unheeded.

I hear a teacher’s scantron sheets
click noisely in the teacher’s room next door.
“Grading’s done,” he chortles, while I am
caught between the Scylla of unintelligible answers
and the Charybdis of illegible handwriting.

I see the PE teacher leaving early to workout
the stress of the week at the local fitness club.
Apparently, fate favors
the Olympically-sculpted

While I, like Sisyphus,upload_6i2s45k8nordin9cemradc8sv7249883.jpeg-final
reach for another paper to roll up
the grading curve.

2 responses to Ode on Grading (Earned)


    I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE , LOVE this!!! I, too, just finished teaching The Odyssey, and I even had my kids write odes to various characters. May I share this?

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