News from Lake GradingBeGone

Well, it's done. I finished my grading last week -- but I failed to make the deadline for on-line grading, and so had to haul my ass to Small College Town to turn them in manually. It was pretty awful, actually -- but turned into a good thing eventually. Sort of.

Here's the story --

On Tuesday, I got my last batch of finals. Tuesday afternoon I started grading. Tuesday night I graded. All day Wednesday, I graded. The electronic submission was due on Thursday. And as some of you know, I don't live in the same town as my college, so a 2-hour drive would be required if I couldn't submit them on-line. Given that I had driven that drive a million times this year, I really wanted to avoid driving in again. So, I determined to finish on Thursday.

Thursday, I got up, left the house and went to the coffee shop to grade. I graded all morning, I graded through lunch, and in the afternoon I went to the library and graded there until 6:00 p.m. At this point I was so strung out I was starting to become a leeettle bit freaky. Like, nervous twitch kind of freaky. I left the library, lugging my 2,000 lb backpack carrying all 900-something pages and walked a couple of blocks to the dance studio.

Yep, you heard me correctly. The dance studio. Spousal Unit and I are learning to shake our tail feathers and find our happy feet -- we're taking Salsa Dancing classes. And, while this may sound like a bit of an indulgence for someone who had 30-ish papers to go and 6 hours in which to grade them, it was critical to the very health of my marriage that I attend.

Spousal Unit and I have been making noise about doing this for years and years. Mainly, because we're terrible dancers. HE claims that it is because I always try to lead. I claim that I try to lead because he is a wussy leader so I just have to take over or else chaos would ensue. This usually ends up in a very interesting battle of wills, toes, and elbows at every wedding, bar mitzvah, hoedown, or other catered-type party that we attend. Think Elaine from Seinfeld attempting to dancing with M.C. Hammer. Not pretty.

A few weeks ago a friend that we had known on and off for a number of years ran into us at the coffee shop and mentioned that she was signed up to take Salsa classes, and pushed us to do it. We decided to end the decade of ugliness, and give it a whirl. The next day, we committed the dollars and signed up for 6 weeks of lessons (6 lessons). So, for the sake of all innocent bystanders at any future panty-hose-required occasions, I thought I should stop the grading for an hour and go to class.

I got to the studio, dropped my junk, and dove into the introductory warm-up steps. It was dreadful. I went left when everyone went right, I stepped forward when everyone else stepped back. I just couldn't get it right. This completely upset me. I had read hundreds of pages of crappy undergraduate writing, the clock was ticking, I wasn't done, and I couldn't even follow the leader. I looked in the wall-o-mirrors and started to cry. I kept zigging while everyone else zagged, and fought back the tears. I contemplated running out of the room, but it seemed a bit overly dramatic, so I kept at it for the rest of the warmup, and in a few minutes I felt better. Then, we learned to turn with partners. So, that was pretty fun and worth it.

After Salsa class, we went to eat with our friend and another new friend from class, so I spent another 1/2 hour at the taqueria having dinner.

After dinner, Spousal Unit took me to his office at the Big Science Thingey and I sat at his desk and graded. At 8:30 I submitted the grades from class #1, at 10:20 the grades for class #2. Amazingly, I finished class #3 with an hour to spare!! I was so happy! I was hanging on by a very, very thin thread at that point, and was so exhausted I was ready to keel over. It was now 11:00 and all I had to do was enter in the grades on the web system.

I logged on, I clicked "submit grades" and the computer/internet whirled away. I waited, staring into the emptiness of space. I kept waiting. Hm, I thought, this seems odd. At which point I got a lovely message saying: "System inactive, message -49503si294." Ah, a glitch. I'll try again. "Submit grades," whirling, whirling...Waiting now with a smidge more anxiety...."System inactive, message -49503si294."

They shut down the F#@*$(&$ system at 11:00 on Thursday, the day the grades were due. Apparently, my institution was on Greenland standard time, and believed that Thursday ended at 11, rather than the more "traditional" midnight. I completely freaked out. I had read 900-something pages in like 48 hours, (pausing briefly to eat, sleep, and salsa dance) and I couldn't submit my grades. I was cursing. I was screaming. I was sobbing. I was mad as hell. I was beyond strung-out. I just had a bit of a meltdown. Poor Spousal Unit. He tried telling me that there was no crying at the Big Science Thingey, but I was beyond consolation. He drug me out and took me home.

While this seems like a minor thing in retrospect, a slight glitch that was easily remedied the following day, I think that my reserves were so so completely drained that I just didn't have any energy to devote to frivolous things like, say, perspective and rationality.

As best as I could, I resigned myself to driving in the next day. Bright side? Driving in enabled me to attend the last faculty meeting of the year. I was planning on skipping it, but I'm glad I didn't -- if for no other reason than that there was a fabulous brunch at the President's house aftewards. It was nice. I put in some face time, and got a more senior colleague to complain about the computer system shutdown in the meeting. After I turned in the grades, I basked a bit on the dock by the campus and watched the swallows dive bomb bugs above me and schools of minnows laze by below me. It was such a nice way to end the semester, I've decided to make it a tradition.

Since then, I've been re-learning how to relax. After very careful and hard training of 9 months of sustained panic, I'm pretty good at the anxiety thing. I've discovered, though, that I'm not so good anymore at the relaxation thing. But, I'm giving it my full and complete attention.

So, that's the end of today's Tale of the Interminable Grades and Their Irrational Grader. Thanks for tuning in. Next time on our program: The Fabulous Fable of Lead Paint Abatement, Mambo-Dancing, and the Attempting-to-Relax Homeowner.


At 4:56 PM contrary_wise said...

Thank you for posting your meltdown story with happy ending. I'm an occasional lurker and am at the tail end of my own semester of hell. I am far more familiar with the melted state of mind than I'd like. Yours is familiar and reassuring indeed.

At 9:01 PM Abbey said...

Great post. Glad you're back to blogging.

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