Avoiding the Grading

I like to begin my Saturday mornings with a long lie in.  It doesn’t always happen, but I tell myself that it’s good for my health and mental state after a week’s worth of nights with only 5 hours of sleep.  Sometimes I’ll get up at 6 AM on Saturdays to make sandwiches for my wife, who works long weekends at the animal hospital, but I’ll usually return to bed with no problem falling back asleep.

Eventually, after reaching a point of guilt about the time of day, I’ll get out of bed and begin catching up on the news while I eat breakfast.  No, not reading the morning paper.  I’ll randomly pick up one of the magazines or journals that I receive but never have time to read.  Or, sometimes I’ll bring my laptop to the table and begin catching up on my Twitter feed right then and there.  Soon enough, though, whether I begin at the table or relocate myself to a more comfy spot, my Saturday morning evolves (devolves?) into an information gathering session.  What new and cools things are happening in the world of science?  What are my friends on Twitter (and Facebook) up to?  What are the new developments — often frustrating, frequently sad, but occasionally encouraging — in the worlds of politics and social justice?  And, most thought-provoking, what new ideas can I bring into my classroom?

I love gathering information like this.  I love the possibilities explored on Twitter: new science, new learning, new technologies to enhance (hopefully) teaching.  I thrive on considering the possibilities, figuring out how disparate ideas tie together, and seeing the complex connections in the world.  But, as a teacher, foremost in my mind are thoughts about helping my students connect with such information and dreams about giving them new tools to learn and process ideas.  When I see sites like Mr. Gonzalez’s Webs, my mind begins buzzing with ideas for improving students’ learning in (and outside) my classroom.   I LOVE learning!

But, here’s the problem.  I’m supposed to be grading.  All school week long, I look forward to the weekend, when I will have more time to grade (and sleep).  On Fridays, when a colleague asks how I’m doing, I usually say that I’m looking forward to the weekend so that I can grade and sleep, although not necessarily in that order.  However, the weekend is now here, and what I am doing?  I’m still gathering information, and now writing about gathering information, and the pile of student-work-to-be-graded is climbing ever higher as the school year progresses.

So, I’m looking for suggestions.  You think I’d have this figured out by now.  I’m forty-something, and I’m in my sixth year of teaching.  How does one balance the time required for grading, information gathering, and the inevitable lesson re-planning that occurs as the result of information gathering?  To put my habit of information gathering in a better light, let’s call it staying connected or keeping abreast of important developments in the field of education.  This is important stuff!  I don’t want to become a fuddy-duddy old teacher stuck in the past.

How do you do it?  How do you stay current AND have time to give your students meaningful feedback on their work?  I’m sure I could quickly turn around assignments and slap some grades on them, but what good is that to my students?  They need explicit, useful feedback in order to improve, don’t they?

Oh, and I shouldn’t forget my family.  Somewhere in the mix, there is supposed to be time for maintaining some semblance of a relationship with one’s family, right?  Or, is that just for summer?

Suggestions?

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