Grading Papers

Sometimes I really enjoy grading papers, if I can get in the right frame of mind.  I have to be very focused, free of outside distractions that might break that tenuous focus, and in a comfortable place.  I also require the perfect beverage, a just-right snack, and good company in the form of a friend or a cat.

Pens–the pens are important too.  Or a strong wifi connection, if I’m grading an electronic assignment.  Also, some music, or noise of some kind, without words but with just sound.

Does that sound too specific?  Like an impossible situation?  You’re right–it is.  I pretty much hate grading.


But this weekend, I got about 250 papers graded that I’ve been procrastinating for a little while.  I was feeling the pain of looming grade deadlines, had the weekend totally free, and enjoyed my couch as a good place to grade.  My husband made me a fresh cup of coffee with my favorite hazelnut creamer, got us some chips, and settled down beside me to watch Ripper Street on Netflix.  My PaperMate pens were flowing, the stack of graded papers was piling higher, and Jon made it through half of season two before I finally called it a night.

Am I finished grading?  Of course not.  My alarm is set for 4:45 am tomorrow so I can get back at it.

But at least I enjoyed the progress I managed to make today.  🙂



I never go to Starbucks without thinking of a quote from one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail:

The whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing or who on earth they are, can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino.

Tom Hanks, of course, delivers this line with his signature dry humor, and I can hear his voice in my head every time I stand in line here to order a drink.


In addition to my associations with movies, Starbucks also always reminds me of when I first began teaching.  I student taught in a school that was a 45-minute drive from my house, and there was a Starbucks near my house I had to pass as I started my morning commute.  I was usually the first customer in the drive-thru line, pulling in at 5:30 sharp and ordering a tall Pike Place, black, every morning.  I’d arrive at school when it was still blissfully dark and quiet, and sip my coffee and get an hour of work done before the middle school students began to thunder in at 7:15.

Now that I teach part-time, I only stop by Starbucks a few times a month, so it feels like a treat to order a $5 latte and bring it with me to class.  Today, I’m in the store, parked in a corner, plugging away at some grading and enjoying a seasonal iced latte, enjoying the hubbub of voices and music and steaming milk that is loud enough to be motivating rather than distracting.

Being here never fails to motivate me to fly through my grading a little faster, inspire a new blog post, or just provide endless entertainment in terms of people watching.  I guess, in Tom Hanks’ words, I do get a defining sense of self by coming to Starbucks:  when I’m here, I am teacher, writer, dreamer.

Thanks, Tom!

I Absolutely Love My Job

In the months since I had my daughter, I have come to truly love and appreciate my job.

I teach preservice teachers at our local university, whose campus is only 15 minutes away from our house…if you include a stop at Starbucks.

I teach three classes:  a 3-credit hour course that meets on Monday mornings, and a 1-hour and 2-hour course that meet on alternating Friday mornings.

Every morning, when I pack Ruthie’s diaper bag to take her to a friend’s house for the morning, I am filled with happiness.  I never dread getting up when my alarm goes off, never dread creating my lesson plans for the day, never dread seeing my students’ bright, optimistic faces.

This morning I spent a wonderful three hours with 19- and 20-year-olds on the cusp of teaching, their faces furrowed in concern as we grappled with issues, grinning at me when I dropped some truth about real public school teaching, or blank with concentration as they read and wrote and thought.  I had so much fun.


I don’t think I love it because “it’s my dream job,” because there are problems, and things I don’t like (cough cough, grading), just like any other job.  But it is, in this season of my life, a way for me to stay connected to all things teaching and learning, when I don’t have time to work in a high school full time.

I’m thinking about this because so many of my friends have written Facebook posts lately lamenting that their jobs take them away from their babies.  “My first day back at work and I’m missing my baby so much!!”  “Two hours ’til my work trip ends and I see my baby again! Longest five days of my life!”

I don’t think I’m abnormal because I don’t fit the dominant narrative of doting mother–I think there are plenty of moms like me.  I just wish more moms like me would speak up and put their real feelings out there.  I wasted a good bit of new motherhood worrying that I wasn’t feeling/thinking/doing “what I was supposed to,” and it made me miserable.  It damaged my relationship with my daughter, husband, and family.

I wish I felt the devotion to my daughter that other moms profess, but I can’t help but remember that I am a person too, and I was a person for 28 years before she was, and I just can’t throw that person away to only focus on this little brand new one in my home.  I feel that when I nurture that self, I can nurture the newer part of my identity–the mom part.

Am I alone in this feeling?  Are all moms like me, looking forward to the convention or work trip or part-time job that gets them out of their house and into adult company, not every hour of every day, but at least weekly?

Or is it just me, and I really do love my job that much?!