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If someone told me 11 years ago that I could still be a teacher and not take home any papers to grade, lesson plans to write, or parents to call, I would never have believed them. How can teachers not take any work home? That’s part of the unwritten portions of a teacher contract of being a teacher– to be willing to work long hours for which you are hardly ever reimbursed. So just like I described in Keep the Fire Burning: Avoiding Teacher Burnout, I almost worked myself into a nervous breakdown after only teaching for five years. But about 6 years ago, I had an epiphany of sorts one night as I graded 150 essays debating the guilt in the cult classic The Crucible. It was eleven o’clock and I HAD to have the essays back to the kids within a week. However, due to all of the mistakes I was finding in the papers, I had only graded ten in a three hour period.
Frustrated, I stuffed the papers in my bag and mumbled, “To hell with this. I’m hungry, exhausted, and I’m tired of using all of my time at home to grade papers instead of spending time with my children.” As I laid in the bed still stressed out about not having the papers graded, I decided that I had to develop a plan to lessen my workload at home. Not only did I have a lot of papers to grade, but I was mandated to call a certain amount of parents a day AND write weekly lesson plans. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, I decided something had to change and it started with me.
The idea was radical but I was determined to see if it would work. I was no longer going to bring home work to grade. After a lot of trial runs and “do overs” I finally got the formula together. Here are six strategies I use to accomplish this:
1. I pace my grading. Almost immediately, I decided that I had to take control of the amount of papers I had to grade. So I devised a plan that would let me handle the amount of work, I had to grade without losing my mind. Once a month I assign a lengthy writing assignment. To better help me grade those essays, I grade the students has they go along in the assignment. So students will receive grades on their completed graphic organizers, rough drafts, peer revisions so by the time I get to their final draft I have a clear idea of their writing abilities on the final draft. When the final drafts are due I usually have around 100 papers to grade within a 1-2 week period. So I take the amount of papers to grade and divide it by the days in the week (100 papers divided by 10 school days) and the sum is the amount of papers I need to grade on a daily basis to be done by goal.
Click here for tip #2.