Why is grading so painful?

Why is the prospect of thirty-five papers to correct so deeply depressing? Why does it move me to file my nails, clean the bathroom, anything? Partly, it’s that it’s required reading: no one likes that. Though I visit Conversational Reading, Light Reading, and the Reading Experience, and though I own the Best American Non-Required Reading (one volume, anyway), I don’t go to Required Reading. Who would? Partly, it’s the painful lurch into someone else’s mind, the suspicion that that someone may not have spent much time trying to articulate her thoughts, that her thoughts may consist largely in a pale parody of my own (under that sad misapprehension that this will please me most).

In fact, once I get reading, the papers (mostly produced by freshmen for a required course in writing or, this semester, literature) are charming, interesting, even, occasionally, good. But then there’s the problem of grading them: not assigning the grade. I know how to do that now and don’t waiver as much as I once did. What troubles me is that sense that now, at this last possible moment of teaching, I cannot write the comment that will help the student move forward and, if I could, she would not read it.

I think grading is so painful because it makes us confront the painful mystery of what it means to teach.

But the brevity of this entry (relatively speaking) is its own kind of victory: back to the stack.