Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Grading, Grading Everywhere and not a Space to Think.

I am working three jobs right now: one of them is as a  "reader" working for the University of California at the wage a barista would make, grading the papers of the best and brightest in an upper division English class, which means I spend hours and hours pointing out all their missing commas, explaining terms they misuse, and occasionally getting excited about a new argument or a clever turn of phrase.

Marking with the bloody red pen
However, even with sixty papers, those moments of joy are few and far between. Lots more frustration tends to weigh down the scales.  Also, we had some friends who got their PhDs a couple years ago come back to visit Santa Barbara this weekend with their adorable blond little toddler, and I spent the weekend ricocheting between hanging out with them and grading. Talk about a lack of motivation to get that pile to shrink.  Finally finished yesterday -- it took me literally all day to grade 20 papers because I had completely reached the end of my rope. I haven't had to grade that many papers in like a year -- last quarter, something about the combination of the class and the time section was scheduled (6 pm on a Thursday!) meant I had only about 28 students total in my sections: less than half the number I am grading this quarter.

Papers everywhere!

I wearily put the red pen down for good at 2 AM this morning, but I had lost an entire day I was hoping to dedicate to reading and dissertation work. I have this book due back at the library, Diasporic Avant-Gardes Experimental Poetics and Cultural Displacement, edited by Carrie Noland and Barrett Watten, which has a lot to say that's relevant to my dissertation (since it connects poetic/literary  exper- imentation and the postcolonial).  Actually, it's really, really overdue. And it's an interlibrary loan, so I really have two libraries hating me right now. I just can't seem to find the time to finish it.

All the essays are interesting and useful, especially Barrett Watten's on experimental poetry in the shadow of international trade agreements (the nerd hat is firmly on my head right now), and I want to spend time reading them, taking notes on them, and then typing them all up. But the book starts accumulating heavy fines on Thursday!  I am in such trouble.

But, the grading is done, and my next job for that class is the final take-home exams, which should be easier (less feedback).  So, now, time to turn back to my most important, completely unpaid job: getting the dissertation DONE.

PDK and I had a long discussion the other night about my motivation (or lack thereof) to finish. Since he has his defense tomorrow, he clearly has the upper hand in this discussion, because he has now shown that, in fact, it can be done. I do lack motivation when I think about what I was hoping to accomplish when I came to grad school, and the realizations I have now about how unrealistic that was -- or maybe how my values have changed. I just wanted (still do) to read and think and talk about books (the lament of all English PhDs!) -- and I didn't think of how I would have to conform to the intellectual marketplace that academia has become.  Now, when I think about my goals, being on the West Coast and with PDK are two of my big ones.  And if those are my goals, which are incommensurate with apprentice professoring at a college somewhere in Texas or Arkansas or Florida, then what is my motivation for finishing?

PDK gave me a good one the other night. He reminded me that he doesn't intend to get married until we are both out of grad school, something he made clear a long time ago. We've been together almost 5 years, and that is something I want to happen sooner rather than later, so now I've got a new little fire lit under my butt.

1 comment:

demandablog said...

AAHH! I used to grade papers as an english grad student, too! I loved it at first because they were all SO BAD and fun to read and smirk at... but eventually it was just boring and depressing. haha. I feel your pain!

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