I teach. My work consists of many tasks. They include putting together syllabi, planning classes, and meeting with students.
Reviewing students’ work looms large in the equation. It can be a grind. A tall stack of essays on the same or similar topics begs for immediate feedback. That feels overwhelming. Sometimes, I feel like I just can’t read one more essay. Assigning grades, the culmination of the process, also can be agonizing. Displeased students may submit negative course evaluations. Those negative comments can hurt instructors. Specifically, instructors who do not have tenure.
But once I subtracted my ego from this equation, I discovered a solution.
My overarching goal is to help students learn and grow. And grading papers helps me to achieve that goal.
Now I’ll paraphrase a friend who teaches high school English. He said, "Grading papers is an opportunity for service."
I've adopted this mindset. It's increased my enthusiasm for grading. As a result, I give more and better feedback.
In the process I’ve discovered that providing feedback on assignments also serves me. The process challenges me to reflect on the specific assignment and relevant lesson. How might the assignment have been clearer? How might class sessions better prepared the students to complete the assignment? And, bottom line, is the assignment still relevant? Does it continue to prepare students to address the challenges they face at outside the classroom?
The experience I've just described taught me that opportunities to serve await me in the most unexpected places. That's a challenge for me to ferret them out wherever and whenever I can.