So, get this. I designed the assessment in my first-year course in a very particular way, because it is so large. Following the advice of Mentor, who has used such a device for years, and Dr. Crazy, who shared her assignment with me, I instituted a random-grading dealio for weekly critical responses. That is, they have to hand in a critical reading response every week (I am the Queen of Critical Responses, across all classes), but they only have 4 of the 12 graded. They seemed taken aback by this at first, but now are entirely accustomed to it. Good in theory, yes? Yes.
Well, what do I do?? I duly separate the pile into two every week, "to be graded" and "not to be graded"...AND THEN READ EVERY SINGLE RESPONSE, AND EVEN MAKE COMMENTS ON THE "NOT-GRADED" PILE. In short, I treat every single one the same - just don't attach a grade to most. But of course this defeats the whole purpose of the thing - the random grading thing is so that I don't have to read 70+ things every week. And yet here I am, reading 70+ things every week.
It's just that I feel bad! I don't think I can stomach having them do work and getting no feedback, no engagement from me. Especially because they're having epiphanies all over the place - these critical responses are full of them. It feels terrible to not engage with them. I'd never expected to feel like this, and I certainly don't for a moment think everyone should feel like this. I think the random grading structure is a good one. But I am too much of a softy, it appears, to do it.
More evidence of my weakness in the face of students: A student had talked at me for way too long about a novel she had read that related in some way to the course. She was really excited about the novel, and was suggesting that she would bring it in to "tell my classmates about it." (With me thinking, "oh dear god, no - what is this, show and tell?") Anyway, last week she brought it in and came up to me to tell me excitedly that she'd remembered it - and then she insisted I take it. So I took it, and now I am reading it. It is a really badly written (and problematic, I might add) young adult novel, for chrissake. But I don't have the heart to give it back to her without reading it. So, though I don't really have much time for fiction-reading these days, and I sure as hell don't want to be reading bad young adult fiction in the little time I do have, I have been reading it these last couple of nights before bed.
Sigh - where can I buy a spine?