Emotional Grading

Like all teachers everywhere, I hate grading. Especially grading finals and final projects. The only way for grading finals to be fun is if the students exceed your expectations. That never happens. It’s nearly impossible for it to happen on the final exam because of the circumstances in which the final exam occurs. So most of us find ourselves grading final exams under a more-or-less crushing weight of frustration. Can it really be that my students learned so little this semester? Am I that awful of a teacher? How did I fail them? I feel uncomfortable with that guilt so I go immediately to fierce anger at them for all of the ways that they failed me. I have nothing smart to say about this — I need some distance to be able to reflect and I won’t get that until this grades are turned in. So I’ll keep grading, but try to think happy thoughts since I owe to my students not to pile my anger on top of them!


5 thoughts on “Emotional Grading

  1. beckycazares says:

    You, of course, know this… They learned far more from you than what appears on an exam. I can’t tell you how many times I walked away from a final exam kicking myself for being unable to answer correctly something I really did know. That’s a parallel frustration to what you’re expressing and the crushing weight for the student is the knowledge that this grade could make or break their semester. Usually I did well enough in class that the grade on the final could almost be irrelevant, but the times when it could make a big difference created panic. Panic often leads to fatalism and then to apathy. “Oh well, I’m going to fail this anyway so who cares.” The stuff a student *learned* in class doesn’t surface until months later when they’re faced with a real life example where that knowledge truly applies. The teaching you did all semester will continue to teach them throughout their lifetime. Long after the sting of the final exam has dissipated. It’s just a blip, not a barometer.

  2. faroop says:

    Thanks for a voice of rationality! I know in my head that final exams are typically not the places where people shine, and I know some of my students really struggle with exam anxiety. So I’m going to keep reminding myself to think good thoughts about them as I grade!

  3. bionicbrooklynite says:

    I nearly threw things in the library the other day, on account of a paper by a student I very much doubt is trying to learn anything from me. (I have reasons for that assertion. I should never have agreed to let him retake the course with me after I failed him for plagiarism.) Guess I’d better grade his final first, so the others are cheering.

  4. alundeberg says:

    My favorite is when a student turns in his/her work and tells me how much they worked on it, and it looks like they did it while riding their bike on the way to school. Sometimes I feel like I might get the same result if I assigned grades to a dartboard and threw darts to ascertain their grade. It is frustrating, but many of them do try on the finals, even if it’s not to our expectation.

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