Ask the grumpies: Alternatives to grading

Leah asks:

I enjoy teaching but can’t stand grading. I find it demoralizing when students put in very little effort. Are there better ways to grade? Or should I consider a different career option?

It’s funny, I’m fine with grading when I’m not the one teaching (in fact, it is how I got spending money in college), but not so fine when it’s me they’re disappointing.  Why didn’t they listen?  Did I go wrong?  Why don’t they care?

The ideal solution is to have someone else do the grading.  TAs are the best.  Especially when they tell you general areas in which students need more work.  I don’t let them grade exams though, only homework.

And that costs $$.

Depending on what you’re doing, you can utilize multiple choice, or fill in the blank and so on and just not give partial credit.  I don’t do that though because I feel like students should get partial credit?

You can have students grade each other if you’re careful about FERPA (numbers, not names on papers) and it’s things where there’s a correct answer, though in those cases you could just have the computer grade.  :/

I dunno.  Grading sucks.

Here’s some posts on grading motivation and pens.

Grumpy Nation, do you have better advice?

For our peeps in grading jail: How do you motivate/reward yourself while grading?

I’m in the middle of grading final projects and exams and completely tuckered out.  And yet, I have to keep chugging.

I tend to work best when I set myself a reward like, “after grading each problem for all exams, I can watch a 4 min youtube video or read a part of a book chapter”.   If the procrasinatory mood is right, I might be able to “reward” myself with less pleasant things like switching out the laundry or loading the dishwasher.

How do you keep yourself going when the grading gets rough?  Non-academics, how do you motivate yourself to do long repetitive boring tasks that are frequently disappointing?

link love for grading jail

Three black teens are finalists in a NASA competition.  Hackers spewing racism tried to ruin their odds.

Meet the tick that’s making Americans allergic to meat

ICE held an American citizen in custody for 1,273 days

Fascism update:  The Justice department deleted language about press freedom and racial gerrymandering from its internal manual

Washington post has a much better opinion section than does NYT. Here’s an underused hashtag.

Thread (tw:  sexual abuse in early modern Japan)

Lord grant me the chutzpah of a mediocre white man. Not that I WANT to poop outside but just the feeling that I *could*

Ugh

Trump was outrageous in Michigan.  So where’s the outrage?

Approved jokes for the WH Correspondents’ dinner 2019

Hat tip delagar for this story

Therapy is not magic (tw: child abuse, sexual abuse)

This assignment seems pretty awful

The end of the damsel in financial distress (h/t a gai shan life– we stole a couple links this week)

Investing is boring

Congratulations to nzmuse!

Financial anxiety to confidence

End of semester questions

Not a general interest is really selling this stylus

What happens when you have no deadlines

Penn is back

Where do you think Dinny is now? (Who is Dinny?, you ask?)

An alternative to stitchfix

onion ninjas

bunny manifesto

How do you get through piles of grading?

The reward method:  Grade an essay or grade a problem and then you get to read a book chapter (or a section of a book chapter).  Sure it sounds like it’ll take longer, but it takes a lot less time than procrastinating by hitting reload on the internet for hours and not actually grading anything.  Works best with short sections (romance novels!)

It helps to be on a couch away from people and away from the computer too.  Distractions are difficult to resist when grading, so they need to be minimized.  Having a big pile (on your lap, or on both sides of you) that’s difficult to escape from also helps, but you have to remember to use the restroom between problems or else you could end up in a bad situation.

My best tip is to grade in colored marker.  Any and all colors that you love.  The benefits are two-fold: 1) it makes grading more fun when you get to play with pretty markers; and 2) it prevents you from writing too many comments, so the grading goes faster.  Students who want details can always come see me in office hours, but they rarely do.  The thickness of a marker means you have to write your comments pretty big to be legible, and not a lot of words fit in the margin.  As it should be.  If you really MUST say a lot of things (why??), then you can always use the marker to write “Come see me.”  Switch colors whenever you get bored.

#1 prefers Pilot G2 gel pens (sensuous) or colored pencils (erasable!).  But we’ve had this conversation before.

Those of you who are or aren’t procrastinating, how do you get through your piles of grading?

Pen choice: A conversation while grading

#1:  I definitely prefer carmine to scarlet.  Unfortunately I have two scarlets and only one carmine. The carmine also wears down faster, but it’s so much easier on my hand.  It just kind of flows off.

#2:  Doh.  I use marker.

#1:  I have been known to use crayon.   My favorite are the red rollerball wet ink pens, but they don’t have any in the supply closet.  Just colored pencils.

#2:  I hate fine-point pens.  They are an abomination.  Medium point represent!

#1:  Color?

#2:  Purple.  Some blues.  Some blacks.  Sometimes green.  Occasionally red.

#1:  I like to bleed all over.  It makes the ginormous NO!!!! that much more effective.  Green is kind of like ichor– alien blood all over the paper.

#2:  What is blue? I haz teh bloos?

#1:  You make me so depressed?  Or, I’m too lazy to find a different color pen.  Same with black.

#2:  Purple?

#1:  Bruises.  For our broken souls.

What is your grading implement of choice and why?  Justify your answer in a short paragraph.  (Or you know, a sentence fragment… whichever is easier for us to grade!*)

*Disclaimer:  We will not actually be grading your work.  *shudder*

NicoleNMaggie and the Infinite Grading

Dear Students…

We’re doomed.

I was going to say a lot more here about grading, but I think this just about says it all.

 

 

 

Also, an oldie but a goodie, “Can I have an extension?”:

Why we decided at the last minute to home school DC2

We were not planning on homeschooling DC2.  We’d bought all the school supplies and scheduled the bus and the after school care.  We even had submitted a grocery order full of easy to pack and quick to eat DC-approved lunch foods.

If our schools had the same protections in place that they had last year, we would not be homeschooling.  We were even still planning on sending hir to school with no mask mandate, though we were uneasy about it.  What happened?  Well, first, at schedule pickup, less than 40% of everyone there was masked (it was waaay less at high school schedule pickup, maybe 15%?, though presumably all of the kids in high school have the option to get vaccinated, though in reality they don’t because they need parental permission).  Second:  we found out some really horrifying things about lack of parental notification and how they are discouraging quarantining, in exact opposition to CDC recommendations.  A kid could sit next to an unmasked covid positive person every class period and lunch and the parents would NEVER KNOW.  Additionally, quarantining will only be allowed for covid positive children, not children who have been merely exposed.  Since people can be contagious before they show symptoms or get the results of a positive covid test, this spells disaster.

I think what happened was they saw headlines from other states that had already opened without mask mandates and thought, well, we can’t have 800 kids quarantined for exposure if we don’t allow quarantines for exposure!

We started looking into virtual schooling options a few weeks ago when it became clear that no masking would stay the rule.  But it seems like it was too late and all of the highly rated virtual options were full while the ones remaining got poor reviews or looked scammy.

We are also going to have to be careful with DC1 since vaccinated kids can get Covid too.  We’ve upgraded DC1’s masks. When the weather cools down a bit we’re going to keep windows and doors open and the fans will be on all winter.  We bought an extra air filter for the mystery of the musty cupboard though I’m not sure whether to put it in DC1’s room (as the most likely carrier) or DC2’s (as the most vulnerable).  Possibly we should buy a third filter and do both.

I know there are naysayers who probably don’t read this blog (or who hate-read it) who think we’re being too risk averse.  But the thing is, we do not know what covid is like in a situation where someone without 100% working protective gear is constantly exposed to the virus.  (Healthcare workers wear protective equipment that fits AND they can eat lunch away from the covid ward.)  If nothing changes, these schools will become seas of virus particulate.  And no, I don’t think this is fear-mongering– it is just logic.  There’s a reason we have quarantines!  And we know that there are breakthrough infections and we know that covid infections are worse the more exposure to the virus someone has had.  On top of that, our hospitals are full and the children’s hospitals in our surrounding towns have been turning people away.  Any non-covid emergency is going to be more dangerous because of these problems.  And I’ve seen the full gamut of what can happen to covid-positive previously healthy young adults… there is no way of predicting who will be asymptomatic and who will have a brief hospital stay.  Or who will recover after a few days and who will still have massive brain-fog for the rest of the semester, possibly longer.  And DC2 is a foodie– losing taste and smell would be awful.  Not to mention that we have no idea what the long-run outcomes will be.

I’m a little worried about DC2 although zie assures us we shouldn’t be.  But this summer and last year zie had virtual classes with a teacher and other kids and had regular minecraft playdates with hir friends 2x/week.  The playdates are ending since hir friends are returning to after school care (we’d signed DC2 up too, but that was before our state and school district decided to go crazy).  There’s no virtual teacher to ask questions, no virtual class to socialize with.  And DC1 won’t be home during the day.  We did hire a Spanish tutor and are considering an English tutor, but that may not be enough.

I am also worried about how this is going to affect our careers.  We’re both working full-time.  During the school year I’m already frazzled trying to get all the parts of my job done plus just seeing day-to-day things with the kids.  There’s just too much going on.  This year will be especially bad because we are hiring for 3 open positions and we have several third year reviews happening.  DC2 has been given strict instructions on when we will have time for hir and hopefully that will be enough.  And zie has sworn zie won’t whine or tantrum, which I find extremely draining.  Hopefully zie will stick to that.  If I were planning on staying here forever, not getting stuff out this year might be ok, but I am desperate to leave this state, so I need to be active.

We hope to return DC2 to regular schooling just as soon as it is safer.  Right now we think that means mask mandates + actual quarantining + lower community transmission rates OR DC2 getting fully vaccinated + quarantining or parental notification or something.  But there might be some combination of the above that would encourage us to send hir earlier.  We were told that school returning from homeschool should only occur at the beginning of grading periods, so every 6 weeks we will look at what is currently happening.

I guess I’m going to split this into two posts.  This one explains our reasoning.  Wednesday’s will be a less emotional “what we’re actually doing” post.  Maybe there will even be some dollar values in it, who knows!

Dipping back into being high income

With DH re-employed, we’re back to being high income.  (Not 1% high income, but more than anybody really needs high income.)

You will recall I had just started loosening up on spending and was buying travel not connected with a conference, visiting DH’s parents’ house, or a wedding for the first time *ever* and then the pandemic hit taking our 20th anniversary trip to Portland, OR with it.  And then it sounded like DH’s job was going to go away, so I started stockpiling, and then it actually did go away, and my income was back to my take-home pay just about exactly covering our expenses on average (though some lumpy expenses, like summer camp etc. came out of DH’s unemployment and summer money/honoraria for me).  I was careful to buy the on-sale things at the grocery store and didn’t go too crazy with my jetpens habit.

To be honest, I felt more comfortable on just my income.  High income is freeing, but I definitely feel guilt along with it.  And uncertainty– I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing with it all.  Is it stupid not to spend?  Should I be saving?  How much waste is moral?  Should I be buying more ways to save time?  Laura Vanderkam would not approve!

And now we’re back to DH’s take-home being higher than mine (I have more retirement account options) and us being able to live off just his take-home pay.

If we stay here forever, we’ve hit our savings goals.  Our house is paid off.  Our retirement accounts are being maxed every year.  We finally renovated the kitchen.  Our cars aren’t very old.  DC1 will have to pay full-freight for college.  But we’ve also got a LOT saved in a 529 already and although we will probably save more for DC2; we won’t know how much more until DC1 actually goes to college.  It’s not really clear where extra money should go.

That said, we’re in a shakier position than we were before.  DH’s job may not last longer than two years.  We both really want to leave this state and move someplace where the government isn’t actively trying to kill people.  We want to live in a Blue state with high taxes and expensive housing. I’m not sure I can get an academic job, especially one with tenure.  Is there age discrimination in Tech?  I don’t know.  Will DH be able to keep getting jobs?  Probably if he’s willing to move (or if he’s willing to do something outside of his main focus– everyone is shocked at how good a programmer he is)… but will they pay enough to live someplace fancy?  We don’t know.

We would need another 3 million dollars in savings to safely move to one of these fancy blue cities and not worry about employment or health insurance or housing (less with jobs lined up).  That’s a LOT of money.

I asked DH what he wanted to do now that we’re rich again.  He said he wanted freedom most of all.  So maybe we should aim for that 3 million.  I don’t know how long it would take to get it, but the more we put away now, the longer it has to grow and the more freedom we will have if DH’s new company goes under or he gets laid off or I move without a job or etc.

But also he wants fancy J. Herbin fountain pen ink (emerald) and either the Peloton app or that fancy online personal trainer thing Wheezy Waiter is always talking about (he picked the latter, and just bought $300 of dumbbells).  And a workout mat to put in his office ($200!  except then amazon said just kidding it’s actually backordered and he got a cheaper one).  I think we can handle those.  And upgrading my iPhone 7 to a newer model with a working battery (I will do this before school starts in the fall).  And maybe even upgrading my ancient computer (though DH may upgrade his and I’ll take his as a hand-me-down).

But I really need to start some kind of monthly savings plan where I just put money directly into Vanguard instead of letting it pile up in savings where it just kind of stares at me and makes me forget its true value.  (I start saying dumb stuff like, “DH, we could totally just buy this $32K house near your parents so everyone has a place to stay at Christmas.”  Narrator:  We should *not* buy a fixer-upper house in a rural area that we will go to maybe 2 weeks out of the year.)

No questions, just being obnoxious.  Commentary accepted even without questions! 

Link Love

I have been on a twitter break and was on a temporary blog break until I got two papers back out.  Now I have grading and a bunch of referee reports to do, so I added blogs back a bit, but it may be a while before there are a lot of interesting links here from twitter.  I have, however, been watching a lot of youtube.  Not just Amber Ruffin… but she is amazing and if you’re not hooked on her show and subscribed to her channel, as she might ask, “what’s wrong with you, shiiii(t)”

Not of General Interest points out how doing something well can backfire.

Athena Scalzi discusses the lingering side effect from her mild case of covid.

 

I can’t help how much I love the below commercial.  Obviously they are all fully vaccinated and living in a blue state where covid rates are low and vax rates are high in the very near future.  I think I need to buy that gum.

Consulting for family?

My sister wanted her boyfriend to hire DH to do some part-time consulting for his business (basically he needed two of his machines to talk to each other, if I understand correctly).  Ultimately DH didn’t because the rate offered was low and would have just been taking out of unemployment AND DH wanted to spend his time upgrading his machine learning and [something directly related to his specific skillset that is easier to do remotely than are his other specializations] skills before tapping his job application networks.

But we thought maybe it wouldn’t be such a great idea anyway and could lead to hurt feelings.

What do you think?  Should family members hire each other for projects?  Have you seen it go well or poorly?  Do you mix business and family?