At my college, I am a teaching assistant (TA) for a professor’s writing intensive class, which means in my case, I grade student papers. While I am not the be all end all for the excellence of writing (I like parenthesis and long sentences for one), I do have a firm grasp of basic grammar and am not driven crazy by the editing process. At least, I thought this until I started grading. Just to help you out, here’s the thought process of a grader.
First: Receives stack of papers to grade from coworker
Ugh. Forty papers? Well, at least I can stagger the grading over the week. Let’s divide the papers into the sections.
Second: Dividing into sections
Good, I have less of 212*, which are due Monday, and more 214*, which are due Wednesday. Oh wait. This kid didn’t put his section number. Well, if you think I’m checking for your name and section number earlier than when I input grades, sorry, not happening. You’ll get your paper back when I turn in the last section. Another one? Guys, it’s a section number. It’s supposed to be on your cover sheet. PUT IT ON THERE.
*not real section numbers
Third: Avoiding grading because homework
I don’t need to grade these until Monday. I’ll do them tomorrow, since today is Thursday and I have homework due tomorrow.
Ah, Saturday. It would be smart if I graded Monday’s section today. But you know, I have that paper due on Monday, I should probably work on that first.
That episode of Breaking Bad was intense. I think going to bed would be a smart idea since I could use a good night’s rest before I start my week. OH no! I have papers due tomorrow!
Fourth: It’s time to grade the papers…Paper 1
Okay. First paper. Huh. That’s a funny name. Why did you put the header/footer on your cover sheet? Not necessary. Okay, did you put a thesis? No, that is not a thesis. A thesis is stating your stance on the topic and your main arguments why.
But okay. So your thesis wasn’t that great, maybe your paper will still be clear – hey that’s not how you spell “definitely” guys. “Defiantly” is not the same thing as “definitely.” Not at all.
No, you do not need that semicolon there.
Um, I know we’re discussing gun control and whether they should be allowed on campus, but the phrase “then they can just shoot the bastards dead” isn’t really something that should be in a paper. For a grade. Just saying. But here, I’ll just write “non-academic.”
Oh my gosh, that sentence is a mess, but I’m not going to actually fix it for you, no, you need to fix it, here, let’s write “awkward, please rewrite.”
That conclusion was of the weaksauce caliber my friend. Summarize your main arguments and restate your thesis, please.
Fifth: Grading by the rubric
Okay, is your rubric attached? Oh good, I don’t have to print off yellow copies of rubrics to publicly shame those who did not attach their rubric and lost ten points. Yet.
Alright, your thesis statement. Was not a thesis at all. But, I can’t just dock you the full ten points, because you did put a sentence at the end of your introductory paragraph that sounded like your idea of a thesis. Plus, the professor will probably give you a point or two back. It’s also the first paper of the year. Okay. We normally give around three or four points on a thesis like this.
Content. Well, your arguments were shaky, you didn’t provide any statistical evidence or outside sources that were more than anecdotal, but your paper had direction, you wrote clearly, and you met the minimum requirement. I say thirty out of forty.
Conclusion, well um. You didn’t actually write a standard conclusion, but you did have a statement that essentially summed up what you were getting at. And you didn’t introduce a brand new argument in your conclusion! So. I’ll give you seven of ten.
Grammar, well, there were indeed five mistakes, which means, according to the rubric, I take off all ten points, but it’s the first paper of the year. Okay, you get three points.
Spelling: You only had one spelling error, even if it was the “defiantly” issue. I’ll only take off one point.
Okay! Add it all up and you get a…no that grade is a little low. Hmm. Your paper wasn’t that bad! Let’s check it again….okay I see, I think that you actually only had two grammar mistakes. Alright, there you are. Much more accurate grade.
Sixth: Grading papers…Paper #8
I know I just counted how many papers I had left two papers ago, but how many papers do I have left after I grade this paper? *counts* four? OH MY GOSH WHY DID I WAIT THIS LATE TO GRADE THEIR PAPERS.
Okay. I can get this done. Maybe this one will be short. Maybe it’ll be a great paper and a breeze to read. I can do this.
Oh no they did the extra credit. Why did you do the extra credit? I don’t want to read the extra credit! Sigh. Okay, no that’s not right. Error! Error! Why did you do the extra credit? Circle, circle, I need a stamp for the word “rewrite,” did you copy this off of the template? I know you copied it off the template, you forgot to put your name where it says “your name here.” Gah.
The paper. Mmm. Let it be good, let it be good – aaand there’s a grammar error in the first sentence. That is a run-on sweetie, let’s bracket that. Oh my gosh, what is the obsession with semicolons??
Hey, look, a real thesis. Can I write that I love you on this paper? No, probably not. A small checkmark will suffice. Because, you know, I have to remind myself when I go through the rubric that your thesis exists and it is good.
More grammatical errors.
Whoa, hey, I don’t think I agree with your argument there AT ALL, but I can’t tell you that. In fact I am pretending I don’t disagree at all. Lalalala – wait, no research to back it up? This is a research paper, by the way. Didn’t you read the assignment? In fact – *checks source page* *there is no sources page* hello! You have no outside sources! Sorry my friend, all of these opinions of yours are exactly that – opinions. And they’re assumptive. While you can have opinions and assumptions, this is a research paper which means you have to back up your opinions with facts. Crazy, I know. Also, don’t use the word “crazy” to describe mentally ill people in a paper. I smite you in my mind for it, and tell you it’s “non-academic” on paper.
Oh, I’m not writing all that out: “You need to have outside sources to back up your opinions, or else they do nothing for your argument.” There we are.
Cooooncluuusiioooon! I can see the light! It summarizes your arguments! It restates your thesis! TO THE RUBRIC!
WHERE IS YOUR RUBRIC??!
Fine. I’ll enjoy every bit of the ten points I am free to take off when I circle your grade on that bright yellow rubric sheet tomorrow at work. And when I type it into the gradebook.
There are no excuses for a missing rubric sheet. Even at the beginning of the year.
Seventh: The Final Paper (of the section)
I am so tired. I want to go to sleep. But it’s the last paper. I can do it. Yes. Okay. Just step by step. Are the words swimming? No, no. I can do this.
I can’t do this, I’ll grade it in the morning.
Okay, I’m awake! Last paper! Alright. Let’s begin.
Wait, were there really no grammatical errors?
There really weren’t!
And a rubric!
Oh right! You did the extra credit!
You get all the points! Congratulations! I love you! I mean. Great job! I’m actually going to write that because you did not make my morning miserable.
Eighth: Transporting papers to work and inputting grades
Dangit, I should have put the file of papers in my backpack before getting on the bus. I’ll just grip them tightly as I stand.
*bus makes a sharp turn* *papers flee the folder* *I start to hyperventilate*
Thank you kind people picking up papers for me as I clutch the bar to keep from falling as the bus careens through the streets. Please don’t look at the names. Please don’t be taking this class. Please don’t be one of the students. Please don’t know someone in this class.
Phew. I made it.
And the gradebook still isn’t available through the computer system. Now to download it again.
Okay, I really need to remember to alphabetize these so putting their grades in goes faster.
Hey look, it’s Paper 8, whom I hate. Well, that rhymed. Maybe I should read it again, I probably shouldn’t take all that much schadenfreude from causing your grade to have a severe limp.
…Nope, still stinks.
I finished! On time! Now I just have to grade thirty/forty more papers!
This job may be the reason I start drinking one day.