Things have officially wound down here in New Wye: after over a week of prepping, writing, proctoring and grading finals, I finally was able to complete the process of actually calculating and submitting the final grades. One would think that this would be just a matter of entering things into a spreadsheet and then giving the results to the registrar via the course grade submission system, but it honestly entails a lot more stress than that.
I also had to determine students’ participation grades — a careful algorithm incorporating whether they offered comments and questions in class and their usefulness; whether they had the required materials, such as drafts on workshop days or textbooks on discussion days and so on; whether they surreptitiously texted their friends on their cell phones under their desks and how often. Trust me, I wish that this bullshit did not have to factor into things, but it does. I would love to operate on the shared assumption that class time is best used to discuss and learn about the assigned materials, but I would no doubt be nearly alone in such a belief. For many of them, class is a time to glare at me in disdain or to make full use of their unlimited SMS plans with Verizon, or, for a skilled few, both.
Grading the finals is always a fun enterprise in that I never know what to expect. Some of them have obviously been paying attention, unbeknownst to me, and manage to write very accurate and insightful things about the texts. I always wonder where they were in class discussions — who would have known that they had such great ideas? Others, unfortunately, seem to think that “A Room of One’s Own” was a text written by the famous “liberal” author “Rebecca Wolfe.” Yeah, I don’t even know. Let’s not waste time trying to figure that out.
Then there are the ones who think that writing accurate yet completely uninformative and irrelevant statements will somehow earn them credit. For example: “In this passage the auther uses a lot of diction and syntax.” Indeed, who can dispute that “the auther,” whoever he or she may be, uses a lot of words and arranges them together in an unspecified fashion? Nay, I cannot dispute this! Others, they try so hard, and yet some up with claims such as this: “Narrative point of view is a technique that Kafka uses a lot in his poem about George, who turns into a varmint.” There are so many things wrong with this that all I can do is scratch a heavy red slash across the paper with such force that it rips right through the page. I am not joking about this.
I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks cursing myself for having to dumb things down to the level of a pre-schooler’s afternoon cartoon, and whining unprofessionally about the level of whining my students escalate to in the final days of the semester, and then meta-whining about how whiny I have become. Now that the grades are all in, though, I feel a keen sense of relief.
I now am able to — at least for a week or so — indulge in some domestic tinkering, sweatpant wearing, over eating and over drinking, leisure reading, and other decidedly unscholarly and normally verboten activities. Thank dog!
As the grades roll through to the registrar’s office and are reported to the students, grade-grubbing and generally whiny emails arrive from those who didn’t get the As their daddies expected, and overly flattering, butt-kissing emails arrive from those who did a smidge better than I guess they thought they deserved. I am, respectively, either an unsympathetic hardass who never understood how hard they were working, or I am a brilliant muse who made them understand literature in a way they never even knew they could. Either way, what they don’t know is that I am currently sitting on my couch in my skivvies with a glass of champagne, a dog asleep on my foot, and my only complaint in life is that in order to smoke in the house I have to open the windows and turn off the air conditioning, and thus am feeling a tad dewy. If that’s my only problem tonight, life is looking pretty damned good.