Everything is interconnected. This year, for the first time in memory, I am not buying last-minute Christmas gifts and wrapping them on Christmas Eve. It’s a really strange feeling to be sitting around the house without stress and pressure. Why, I ask myself, is this year different? The answer comes immediately. Every other year, for the rememberable past, I’ve been frantically grading papers and projects right up until the very verge of Christmas. Then, after all the work was done, I had to catch up with what everyone else had been doing to get ready for Christmas. For those who are not teachers and do not live with teachers, let me explain something about grading season. Depending on what you teach, you may have 50 to 75 students, or even up to 125 or more students. Each of these bundles of joy delivers to you the fruits of their labors as the semester comes to an end. During the two weeks just before grades are due, there are mountains of papers for you to consume. There are piles on your desk; there are piles on your dining room table; there are piles in your briefcase; there are piles on your coffee table; there are piles on the floor; … well – you get the picture. Each individual piece of work in these piles demands your closest attention as you evaluate and judge the quality of the work to see if it meets your standards. As you evaluate each piece of work, you also write copious comments, in a last-ditch hope that you might actually succeed in teaching something. In the end, you have to put a single letter or number on top to summarize your evaluative judgments. If you teach college, you know that a predictable percentage of your students will contest whatever grade you decide on, unless that grade is an A. So, you need to prepare yourself for a defense of the grade. Each individual item that you’re grading may take you between 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on the size of the project. So, a class set of papers, which may represent 25 students, may take you several hours to grade. And you have 3 or 4 classes, each of which is turning in several projects at the end of the semester. Oh, and of course, you are still teaching during these two weeks, so this grading time is actually overtime. But we don’t call it overtime. In fact, we aren’t paid by how much time we spend working, so what most people think of as “overtime” (as in extra pay, bonus money, gravy, whatever you want to call it) doesn’t exist for us.
So this Christmas, because of my (thank-you, Lord) Sabbatical, I have not had to do any grading for the first time in about 37 years of teaching.
And that’s why I’m sitting still on Christmas Eve with my packages all wrapped and ready to go.
And that’s why I say that everything is interconnected.