Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Post-grades moods and ruminations

I'm feeling good. Weirdly free. Surprising, considering that yesterday I basically had a stress meltdown, started semi-hyperventilating and had to reach for the Rescue Remedy, which I've never done before (unless it's to give it to the dog.) Reasons: outstanding grading, my drowning in piles of paper, the smartitude and efficiency I must exhibit over the next three weeks, and ex-GF.

Today, yay. It's that I'm really done. I went to Uni City and handed in all my grades today, though I did give Incompletes to three students. Three students of fifty strikes me a fairly high number, actually. But anyway. The point is, I am free. After handing in grades and meeting with Incomplete students to fill out their forms, I also packed up my office at Dream Uni. And got a drive with the contents back to Home City.

So, weirdly free. Good mood tonight, which persisted even though I spent the evening with my mother, she with whom I have the notoriously difficult relationship. This is a definite sign of happiness.


So, my thoughts on grading:

I have the pushover problem I have mentioned before. So students feel okay coming to see me about their problems, big and small. And as soon as I hear stories, which are often accompanied by genuine distress, I'm a goner. "Of course you shall have an extension!" I cry. "Take a month! Take as long as you need!"

So what I've decided is that next year I am going to try the five-days'-grace method I've heard of people using. Where the students have five days' lateness grace over the course of the term. They can use it all on one assignment, or spread it across assignments. They don't have to offer an explanation; I don't want to hear it. After they've used their five days, they face severe late penalties unless they have documentation of some kind of serious medical problem or whatever.

I want to try this because I need to find a way to stop hearing the stories. Because it gets me to the spot where I was this last couple of weeks, juggling so many extensions and crises I couldn't, honestly, keep it all straight. Down with the story!!

If anyone has experience with this method that they'd like to share, I'd love to hear it...


The other thing related to grading is this:

I was out for a dog walk with A on Saturday. I mentioned that I was still waiting on some assignments, mentioned the perennial state of student emotional crisis I find myself dealing with. These are some of my very top students, I remarked.

A asked, "Are they queer?"

And you know what? For the most part, they are indeed.

I've been thinking a lot about this. About how the university can be such a site of potential, patchy empowerment for some queer youth - especially this university - that it can blind us to the really, really frickin' hard thing it is to be negotiating sexual identity at this stage of their lives. Out in some spaces, very much closeted in others. Really so full of longing, and also of fear. Oh, the painfully split subjects they are, almost all of them. So open, and so vulnerable. I need to remember that homophobia and heterosexism profoundly affect even the most seemingly savvy and self-aware students.

I had a while ago decided that I wanted to be on the Human Rights and Equity committee at my new position - that would be my service (aside from, ahem, coordinating a little program). I had thought of creating a Positive Space campaign, which the campus doesn't currently have. This only reaffirms my commitment to doing that. But more than that, I want to create a way to begin to address the mundane hardships or at least weirdnesses of being a queer student - not the spectacular injury many face (though that is so important) so much as the ephemeral, almost unnameable aspects of their existence. The things that lead them to my office, always searching...How can there be a language, or at least a recognition, a context, for that?


Flavia said...

I love the 5-day grace period, which I've never used or heard of, but which sounds really reasonable. I offer my students one free, no-questions-asked 2-day extension, which they can use on either of their two papers; for additional time, or for their other paper, I do individual negotiations requiring (usually) documentation, or at least a private meeting in which I get a sense of the problem.

But the fact is, so many of my students have complicated lives, and it's usually no skin off my nose if something's a day late or even several. . . I may consider adopting this policy myself.

squadratomagico said...

I've never used the five-day grace period idea, but I usually do allow extensions of one class (usually equal to two days) on every paper assignment. Basically, I know that it will take longer than two days to grade the whole class (particularly since my classes are large), so what's the difference? More than half the papers will not have been graded by the time that second class rolls around anyway.

I tell them I do not want any excuses for the extension, but there is one rule: they must request the extension 48 hours in advance of the original due date. That way, I can keep track of which papers to expect on day one, versus the ones coming in on day two. Again, this level of record-keeping likely is more important in large classes like mine, where it's sometimes hard to figure out who has dropped the class and who still is enrolled, except through assignments. (Our administration does not inform us of withdrawals).