If you’re anything like me, you love the curriculum creating and instructing part of teaching. There’s something so thrilling about designing effective lessons and delivering them to students and watching their minds turn with wonder and excitement.
If you’re anything like me, you also loathe the grading part of teaching. It’s tedious, time-consuming, and often psychologically taxing. It’s why many of us tend to procrastinate, saying we’ll get to that stack of papers or that pile of tests Friday night or Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening, putting it off until the last possible minute.
Expert procrastination doesn’t come easily. It’s an art, believe it or not. Unsure where to begin? Don’t fear. I’ve assembled a step-by-step procrastinator’s guide to grading papers to help ensure you’re procrastinating effectively.
Step 1: Stare at the stack of grading. Really look at it for about 3-5 minutes. I find imagining how absolutely mind-numbing the impending hours of grading will be helps to fuel my desire to do any damn thing but that.
Step 2: Dig through the stack for the work of a student you know has likely done well. It’s nice to throw yourself a bone when you’re first getting going. Seeing the A+ work of an overachieving student offers a glimmer of hope that somebody actually read the directions, helping you feel like less of a failure once you dive into them full force.
Step 3: Get distracted by whatever’s on TV. Doesn’t really matter what, for inevitably, it’s going to be more appealing than burying yourself in 90 poorly written personal narratives. I’ve discovered that watching Cops tends to put things in perspective: I may have to grade these specimens of grammatical homicide, but at least I’m not those people.
Step 4: Suddenly remember that the kitchen needs a good scrubbing. And the bathroom. And the wood floors. And the windows, drapes, carpets, toothbrush holders, grandfather clock, china cabinet, sofa, TV stand, and the rocks in the garden. All of it. You can’t be expected to actually exist in such squalor.
Step 5: Grade a handful of papers. Give the first two your undivided attention. Start daydreaming about what you’d do if your house plants came alive and tried to eat your family and your pets on the third one in.
Step 6: Check Facebook. Be sure to update your status with something to the effect of how you’d rather scour your nipples with a Brillo pad than grade the papers sitting before you.
Step 7: Go grocery shopping. Surely you’ve only got about 6 days worth of provisions remaining. How’s anyone going to survive if you don’t pick something up right this instant?
Step 8: Get back into the pile. Come up with a plan to alter between what you know will be good work and what will be bad work. Throw the stack on the coffee table when what was supposed to be one of the good ones turns out to be disastrous.
Step 9: Exercise. You’ve been meaning to get back in a fitness routine since July, remember? No time like the present!
Step 10: Treat yourself to a bit of leisure reading. You did just sweat your love handles off, didn’t you? You need a reward. It’d be crazy to get to work on those papers right away.
Step 11: Give grading another go. Decide to grade the difficult ones first, saving the easy ones for a smooth finish. After about the 5th assignment in a row without a name or class hour indicating to whom it could possibly belong, consider quitting your job and becoming a stripper. Stretch marks and saggy boobs aren’t a deal breaker, right?
Step 12: Cook something you’ve never attempted before. Announce to the family that you’re whipping up a special treat and that they should probably each invite 3 of their closest friends to partake. You can’t grade while you’re hosting a dinner party, anyway. It’d be rude.
Step 13: Enjoy a glass of wine. Or two. Or three. You should probably put off that grading, though. It wouldn’t feel right to work while imbibing.
Step 14: Force yourself to pick up the stack again. Remind yourself that there are worse positions to be in. You could be circus clown, for example, or a prisoner of war.
Step 15: Try something new with your hair. After all, you do have that unused 7 barrel curling iron just chilling in your vanity. It’d be a shame to let it sit there all by its lonesome.
Step 16: Take the dog for a walk. It looks like it needs a walk. Isn’t that right, Scruffy? YOU NEED A WALK! *chasing dog through house, leash in hand*
Step 17: Promise yourself you can eat an entire tube of cookie dough if you just sit down and grade those papers right now. Grade 3 papers. Tear into the cookie dough like a rabid honey badger.
Step 18: Redecorate. The way the couch is positioned really closes off the living room. You should probably move it where the TV is, move the TV where the rocking chair is, move the rocking chair where the bookshelf is, etc. Better block off a couple hours. You simply can’t live with the furniture like that anymore.
Step 19: Check Facebook again. Engage in witty banter with friends who commented on your previous status. Post a pic of a cat playing the harmonica for a weasel.
Step 20: Threaten to subject yourself to a full day’s worth of listening to a recording of your Great Aunt Gertie complaining about her inflammatory bowel symptoms on a loop if you don’t finish grading those damn papers. Finish grading those damn papers.
Step 21: Celebrate! You did it! It may have taken you a week and a half, but you did it! Now, get on out there and…oh, wait. There’s another stack waiting on your desk.