Teachers share their tales of marking meltdown

July 7, 2011

It is the "whining season": a time of year when academics give up their evenings, weekends and any hope of restful free time to mark papers - only to find their efforts undervalued by managers and students alike.

This is the picture painted by participants in the Share project, who are profiling a day of their lives each month as part of a year-long project into teaching practices.

"Students are told the grade they earned and suddenly realise that it is not the grade they wanted," one academic writes. "So they proceed to explain to you why they deserve a grade they did not earn."

Grading and deadlines loom large in the most recent set of entries.

One participant recounts a Sunday spent marking. "Of course," they lament, "since this is not one of the sample weeks for me to complete a time sheet, the powers that be will never know."

Even those who do spend their weekends marking explain that they often find it difficult to meet their deadlines: "Officially, I'm allowed 20 minutes per paper, according to my workload sheet," one diarist explains. "That doesn't translate in real time at all."

Another scholar puts it more bluntly: "Unless the marking fairy helps, I won't make it."

Some participants detail how the pressures of meeting the end-of-year deadlines throw other aspects of their lives into disarray: "Last week I nearly went into meltdown as I struggled to finish a paper," one academic says. "My house looked as if some rampaging bear had been stamping its way about."

Not all the participants in the project, which is funded by the Higher Education Academy, are feeling the strain, however.

One entry reveals a Sunday spent with students on an expedition in a rainforest "spotting birds, plants and invertebrates; snorkelling on the reef in the afternoon. So I was working Sunday, but it didn't feel like work."

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com

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