(a) Read several interesting novels.(b) Deep clean and reorganize your house and everything in it.
(c) Watch 20 movies that you've been wanting to see.(d) Grade 115 eleventh graders' essays.
I chose option (d). Yes, folks, I truly did. My students did the math this morning. Over the past two weeks, I spent over 40 hours grading their essays--in between teaching full-time and dealing with "life" and all of its related responsibilities.
This morning, I said to them, "I am forcing you guys to revise your essays because I spend a lot of time on the comments, and I don't want you to just look at the grade and toss the paper in the garbage. I want you to look at what I wrote, strive to change your weaknesses, and improve as writers."
One of them said, "Mrs. Nielson, how much time do you think you spent?"
I thought about it and then responded, "I guess I don't really know. I spend about 25 minutes on each essay, and there are 115 of you...do the math."
I was shocked when they told me the answer. "That's about 40-50 hours, Mrs. Nielson."
???!!!????!!!???!! (stunned silence)
"No, Johnny, you're wrong. Do the math again," I insisted.
"No, really, it's actually 40-50 hours."
I stood there in shocked horror, and then screamed out, "I HAVE NO LIFE!! YOU GUYS, I HAVE NO LIFE!"
They were amused.
I was not.
I know, I know. I could cut back. Scrimp a little. Cut corners. Believe me, I'm trying to. But after eight years of tutoring/teaching writing, I've streamlined the grading process as much as I possibly know how to while still making the feedback formative and meaningful. A major essay just takes 20-25 minutes to read and thoughtfully respond to. Writing instruction just takes time.
But, oh, think of the things I could have done with that 40 hours:
(a) Watched the Pride and Prejudice BBC mini-series six times.(b) Driven to Colorado and back.
(c) Worked a full-time second job (earning money!)(d) Made Ryan enough decent meals to last us several months. (He's lucky if he gets one per week.)
(e) Made a dent in my "to-read" list, which currently has 55 titles on it.
(f) Completed all of the major projects that are in piles on my floor: scrapbooks, cleaning, journaling, filing, bills, stuff for the non-profit...
And what did I do? I graded papers instead.
I sure hope they learned something.