I teach a college writing class, a seminar actually. I’ve been teaching this class (with constant variations) at this institution for four years, eight semesters. I love the class. I love choosing readings and hearing my students discuss them. I love designing assignments and watching my students’ imaginations making meaning from my prompt, producing work that I rarely expect and often admire. I love talking about writing, and I love helping others write pieces that they can celebrate.
But I hate grading.
I hate putting an artificial value (letter grade) on something that contains a piece of someone’s soul.
Am I being overly dramatic? Isn’t this just a required course to make sure students have some basic communication skills? To the first: perhaps I am. To the second: Maybe the course seems like “just a requirement” to other people, but it is not that to me, and I would venture a confident guess that the majority of my students don’t think so either…after they’ve completed the class.
I am not a brilliant professor. I’m not even a professor…just a lowly adjunct. I am not a profound lecturer. I rarely lecture at all. But I give my class space. I give them space to write things that matter to them. I give them space to write in casual, personal voices and passionate, persuasive voices. I give them room to make mistakes, revise, and take risks. They make great strides in valuing their own insights as much as (hopefully more than) how many lines go in a heading, how to create an MLA citation page, and what the heck a semicolon is really for. How do I put a letter on that?
The need for rankings and objective values pushes me to assign a measurement to the work accomplished in my course. No matter how much I adjust my requirements and objectives, I am left with the conviction that declaring A, B, or C belittles my careful efforts to make the process of fully engaging in my seminar real. Worse than that, the grading process belittles my students’ progress in the risk-taking, word-crafting, and soul-baring that happens so beautifully from semester’s start to finish.
I’ll be back when the dreaded task is through.