Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Sunday Morning Blues: Correcting Papers

Correcting (assessing, reviewing and responding) is similar to cleaning your house, it's not fun unless you have lots of extra, energized time.  When you're squeezing it in on your day off along with the housework, it's simply not fun. Yet, the results of this action are critical as assessing student work helps one to tailor the program to specific student needs, interests and passions.

Every year I make a commitment to do this every night--to roll out the responsibility with a daily response so that the papers don't pile up, but also like every year, meetings, parent conferences, curriculum design and collegial work pushed individual response aside, and now there lies a pile of about 200 papers ready for my review (25 students X 8 papers each).

I'm also noticing that the simple addition of 3 students to my class has added a lot more time to response endeavors including editing during class time, correcting papers and parent conferences.  In these cases, class size makes a difference.

I realize that this pressure comes with the job, and I've heard more than one curriculum leader exclaim, 'That's why I left classroom teaching." to my dismay.  I also spend lots of extra time learning, creating and doing "extras," but I hope some day the laborious, but necessary, work of carefully reading, responding and coaching via student work will be moved to the on-the-job responsibilities rather than weekends, evenings or early mornings before school.

I have started using some wonderful online tools like That Quiz which grade students' math work, but when it comes to many subjects or learning endeavors, a number on a page doesn't give me the information I need including students' reflections, analysis, use of language and learned concepts/knowledge--for that, my own careful reading, response and decision making about next steps are needed.

     So when I woke up this morning, I remarked on the phone to my sister, "It's a beautiful day."
     She replied, "Not here, it's gray and raining."
     I said, "Well, it's gray and rainy here too, but I guess I think that's beautiful since I have hours of correcting to do."

I grew up in a house where complaining wasn't allowed and usually met with a response such as, "You're lucky to have such a good job, so just do it," and that's what I'll do today, correct while singing The Sunday Morning Blues.

Note: The post above was written with the best of intentions, yet after careful consideration I believe it's time that classroom teachers take their weekends back.  We'll teach better if we have time off to care for ourselves and our families.  It's imperative that administrations look carefully at roles and responsibilities in school systems, and carve out time during the school day for professionals to do the work that's most important to children--optimal feedback and response preferably in the way of small group or one-to-one conferences is the best way to provide this.  I hope I'll see this change as the education evolution moves on.