Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Grading Exams

Well, a brief summary of my vacation so far, for those of you who rely on this for details of my life and/or care thereabout. On Shabbat, I hung out with nephews and niece and read. On Motzei Shabbat, we cleaned the living room. On Sunday, I went to a puppet show with nephews and mother early in the afternoon(I may actually post about some aspects of that at some point...there's a point that niggles at me), and spent the rest of Sunday and Monday being extremely sick. It was exceptionally good timing, really. Somehow, my body had kept me going, ignoring those first hints of illness that in hindsight I realize began early into finals, carrying through that stress until it got me to a place where it knew that there was a mother. There are few things nicer than being sick at home. Actually, that's absolutely false. It is still nasty to be sick. But if one must be sick, then it is very good that it should be by a mother who will bring you tea and toast, and a father who will ask how you are feeling, and a brother who will let you steal his library books. Being sick alone is depressing and lonely and altogether icky and I am quite grateful to the old body for having had the sense to take me home before succumbing.
Which has, of course, absolutely nothing to do with grading exams. Shhh. Anyway, so today I went to enter exam grades for my sister, who is TAing for a couple of classes and willing to pay somebody to do the very, very dull work of typing the exam grades into the computer after she grades them.
I was firstly struck by the singular impressiveness of the human mind. Here was my brain, faced with the exceptional, superlative boredom of my task, and it nontheless managed to find things to be interested. And this is even after my nephews, who had been wrestling and jumping on one another in adorable fraternal manner, were chased out of the room. For a while, I entertained myself by rooting for various people as I went through their exams. Based usually on hand-writing, I would decide how well I wanted the person to do and then see if they did. Then I rooted for the females, just to have a change of pace. Then I simply felt bad for those who did awfully, especially a couple of people who seemed to have missed the questions written on the back of the papers and so lost themselves some 10%. And then, the last stage, I stopped caring about the students at all, except to be glad when they got no points at all because then I would have less to add.
At this point, I turned my musings to the general grading process. Here, of a sudden, I became privy to the deliberations that go into grading final exams. My sister says that she was given nearly no guidance, and while not arbitrary, there was necessarily quite a bit of subjectivity. What about my exams, I wondered? The ones that I slaved over, stressed for, worried about, am going to let determine so much of my mood and future? Are they being graded by a stressed grad student somewhere as she tries to keep her children from spilling orange juice on her laptop? Are questions being clarified by a wave of her magic red pen and two points off? Flipping through the exams, I got a sobering awareness that these were people I held. This person here, who got a 40 out of 200- is that because he was goofing off? Is this going to make him reconsider graduate school? Ruin his chances of getting a job? Destroy his GPA?
I am glad that I was simply entering the grades, because had I been the grader, I might have let these considerations affect my grading and that would not have been right. But as it was, I was simply doing busy, mindless work, that left my mind open to wander and ponder and type people's futures into neat little columns into my sister's laptop.

1 comment:

e-kvetcher said...

One thing I found out about grading, a little too late in my college career, is that after you get your grades, you can go and negotiate/argue with your TA about giving you more partial credit/points by trying to convince them that you knew more stuff than you got credit for.

I saw people raise their test scores by a grade doing this...