My White Whale

Honestly, I’ve never read Moby Dick, nor do I know if this reference is accurate, but hey, I’m a science teacher I’m going with it.

As I get more and more marking periods under my belt, collecting data points along the way, I’ve been able to find some interesting trends. Earlier this week a new trend came to light as I looked back on the marking periods of my past years. Every semester I come across an assignment, an assignment that I need to grade, an assignment that always finds its way to the bottom of the pile, an assignment I put off grading just one more day.

These assignments are what I’m calling my white whale, also known as the sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus (couldn’t resist throwing some Marine Biology in there.) The elusive assignments that just can’t get graded.

Last year there was a set of constructed responses, yesterday I finally got through a stack of lab reports. I’ll tell you it’s a good feeling finally getting through them all, but its been about a month since I first collected the assignment, and I have taken FAR too long  to grade them.

I can’t quite put my finger what it is about the assignments. Sometimes they are longer assignments; while during other marking periods it’s a short assignments. I bring them back and forth between home and school, planning to grade them, but grade other assignments instead. I look at them, I shift them around from one folder to another, shuffle and reorganize them, but darned if I can get myself to sit down and just grade them.

During this whole time, as I dance with these assignments, I find I grade other assignments faster, a way to put off grading the white whale. But once I get through the new assignments, my brain is burned out and I push them off to the next day. Honestly, it’s quite an elaborate game I play with theses assignments.

Luckily, I average returning assignments the next day or two, and within the week for larger assignments. So, my students are forgiving. But, it does prevent me from catching up with students who have not done the assignment yet, certainly a downside as I try to make sure students are caught up on their work.

Looking at it maybe I’m the white whale, trying to escape, as the assignment is Ahab looming over me not letting me forget he’s there, unable to escape no matter how elaborately I try to dance around it. Either way, I wonder what the assignment will be next marking period, maybe this time I won’t let any of the assignments get the best of me and break the trend.

Maybe I should read Moby Dick. (If I’m going to reference it after all)

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4 responses

  1. Few things feel better than slaying the white whale. The only problem is that it is usually so far past a respectable turn around time that I am embarrassed to hand it back.

  2. I applaud you for grading your student’s stuff, period! The whole concept of grading assignments from a hundred different kids is just out of the world for me. Do you teachers have some kind of watch that can stop time to be able to grade all of those papers?!

    Anyways, nice allusion. I haven’t read “Moby Dick” either but the way in which you use it sounds convincing. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to read the book though (a piece of advice I should follow myself).

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