It just happened to me again (as it has so many times over the years): the dread of marking. This time I only had a few final MA assignments to grade, but it made me insanely depressed just to think about it.
(If by any possible chance you are one of my current – nearly ex – students, don’t worry; I’m complaining about me, not you!)
I can’t remember how often, over the (many) years in the world of TEFL that I have seen a task as so insurmountable, so mind-sapping, so time-wasting, that I have put off doing it for years – or at least far longer than I should have done. Marking exams; correcting student essays; doing some task (usually, frankly, marking); writing up observation reports….. and so I have put it off and off until it becomes, frankly, embarrassing.
Am I the only one? I don’t think so. We all do it. We put off something we don’t especially want to do, and the longer we put it off, the bigger it becomes in our minds. And then it gets so huge that we just can’t face it at all!
That’s what happened to me over the last few days. I had to mark and grade just a handful of final assignments on an MA module. The number is/was in single figures. But I was ‘on the ‘road’ in Poland and Romania, giving talks and trying to keep up with emails. And the longer I put off spending a few hours on the task in my hotel room, the more depressed I became. I couldn’t face it. I started to have a big sulk. My wonderful co-tutor asked me how I was getting on. I metaphorically dug myself into my burrow.
But finally I HAD to start reading these papers. So I started in Bucharest airport and continued on the flight home. Right now that I am home, I’ve nearly finished. And the result? Magic! I have read a passionate defence of coursebook use and and then almost immediately found myself reading a paper which argued precisely the opposite with the same kind of energy (and I wanted to agree with both of them). I have read some great classroom ideas. And finally I found my 36,000 feet tiredness absolutely blown away by a bravura attack on anyone (including me, the tutor) who had ever allowed Gardner’s MI theory to be dragooned into a(n apparently) misunderstood view of learner styles in education. Electrifying. You know what? I really enjoyed my reading, and the hours of the flight literally flew (sorry!) by.
So what on earth was I so worked up about before I started?
I remember a lovely article by Lesley Painter about how she made homework writing and marking a joy for all by letting the students choose what their homework tasks should be. Sounded wonderful. Is that the answer?
How do you manage to climb the homework wall – or other similar tasks, if it comes to that – without getting all petulant like me? How do you make marking less of a chore?
I’d be fascinated to know!