Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Break In The Action

There is nothing left to grade.

This is a difficult concept to wrap my mind around right now. There’s always something that I should be grading. There is always an essay or a quiz or some other example of the poor transmission rate of my teaching to my students’ learning that needs to be slogged through, commented upon in the fond hopes that maybe this time it will work, and returned. Sometimes it does work, which is one of those things that teachers live for. And sometimes I don’t even need to comment – once in a while, they just get it. Hail, happy day.

But the semester is over, and there is nothing else to grade.

I find myself searching my office for more. It does not seem likely that this burden has been taken from me. In truth it will be returned to me in a few weeks when the next cycle comes up anyway.

And really, that’s a good thing – it means somebody’s paying me to teach history, which is an all too uncommon thing to have happen in today’s job market. The Great Recession of 2008 was nothing new for people in my field. Historians have been in recession since the late 1980s. I remember when I first got to graduate school in 1989, the word was that soon the post-WWII wave of PhDs would begin to retire and new opportunities would arise for historians, opportunities the likes of which had not been seen since the Johnson Administration.

But those people did not retire right away, and when they did they were not replaced by full-time tenured faculty with any great speed or in any great numbers. The 90s were tight, the 00s remained so, and the current economic unpleasantness coupled with the relentless sustained assaults by modern conservatives on history (ironic, really) and education in general (who needs facts and expertise when you have paranoid fantasy and faith-based reality?) have rendered any general hope of improvement in that situation rather forlorn.

So any time someone is willing to hire me to do what I was trained to do – what I have spent an inordinate portion of my life working to be able to do, and what by most accounts I am very good at doing (I don’t believe in false modesty, since I have so much to be genuinely modest about) – it is a good day.

Grading still sucks, though, no matter how you slice it. It’s the cloud that goes with my silver lining.

But it’s over. For now.


KimK said...

Hooray for turning the last page on another semester. Now we're both done and we can really lay down a groove. (Not a rut, a groove !)

Unknown said...

For the grading, have you ever considered throwing the exams down a flight of stairs? The exams of the people who put the most blood, sweat and tears into it will land at the bottom. They get the A's. Or so said my high school physics teacher.