Thursday, May 5, 2011

La Vida Loca

It's Cinco de Mayo and, as has been the case for the past umpteen years, I have papers and finals to grade.

Teachers have a vexed relationship to the grading process.  We think it's a good idea; we have only ourselves to blame.

And yet, inevitably, our humanity seeps through.  My favorite description of the grading process, written by a newly-minted Ph.D. and young professor, parallels Kubler-Ross' model of the five stages of grief.

And please, don't tell me the one about throwing the papers down a stairway and then basing the grade on where they land.

That one's just lame and it shows your age.  Everything's submitted electronically now.

And yes, I could throw my laptop down the stairs, but that won't help.

I made the mistake of giving my students insight into the grading process by telling them a story about my own experience.  Last year, over spring break, I was alternating between going to the hospital to see my mom, who was dying, and grading.

So I'd spend the day talking about morphine drips and DNR orders and listening to Cheyne-Stokes breathing, and then go home for an hour or two and try to get some grading done.

At one point, about 3 days into this process, I was midway through reading my poor students' innocent essays when I suddenly shrieked, "THESE PAPERS JUST AREN'T VERY GOOD!!!!!"

That's when I realized that I'd better stop grading for a bit.  I called my best friend, who wisely said, "I think you're tired."

I did eventually get the papers graded, and I actually went back over the ones I had corrected before my outburst, just to make sure I hadn't punished anyone for existential circumstances over which they had 1) no control, and 2) no knowledge.

After I told that story, my students began to encourage me to do whatever is necessary to "make sure I'm in a good mood" when I grade their papers.  They counseled me to reflect on when I most like to grade (do I prefer mornings, afternoons, or evenings?), to take frequent breaks for food and naps, to consult with my cat when necessary, and to perhaps consume alcohol (in moderation, of course) if it will have an overall positive effect on the nature of the comments and criticisms I offer.

Most of all, they advised that, when overly tired or in doubt, I should simply give the assignment an "A" and move on, knowing that I have "done the right thing."

While I felt that some of their advice was a bit biased and perhaps not in the best interests of my career, I have attempted to capture the spirit of their suggestions. 

I have just finished eating 12 little snack-size Heath candy bars--the small ones.  The very small ones.  The ones that, if you had gotten them in your Halloween candy when you were a kid, you'd think, "Yeah, hey, thanks, cheapskate," before you learned that it was rude to think such things.

I ate these while listening to Ricky Martin's "Livin' La Vida Loca" on high volume.  Since I will once again be unable to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I thought the least I could do was imagine downing a margarita or two and then dancing with Ricky.

Ideally, of course, margaritas would not have approximately 3000 calories each and I would be dancing at a Cinco de Mayo party with someone who looks a lot like Ricky, but who is a bit closer to my own age.  And not gay.

But in a pinch, I could just dance with Ricky.

I have also spent a fair amount of time commenting to my kitty about how wonderful and overwhelmingly smart he is, despite the fact that, to the untrained eye, it would appear that all he has been doing is simply napping all morning.  He seemed to enjoy this, but when I began dancing with Ricky, he felt it best to withdraw to a more secure location. (As I said, he's very smart.)

I joyously realized that, after yesterday's rain, one of my rain barrels is now full.  If I were a character in a musical, this would have been a point at which I would have burst into a movingly thankful, heartfelt song that involved repeatedly opening my arms wide and staring up at the sky.  

I then tested the rain barrel's tap for scientific confirmation.  And yes, it was true.  It is full.

I also cheerfully acknowledged that the gladiola bulbs I planted two weeks ago have begun to sprout.  I then made an effort to count exactly how many there are and devoted some time to imagining what colors they will be.

I decided the time had come to sign up for paperless billing on a variety of my accounts, and in a flurry of green activity, I investigated the recent developments in wind energy technology.

I defragmented my hard drive and made sure my Temporary Internet Files folder had been emptied.  (It had.)

And then I began to blog.

So now I think I'm ready to start grading.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."