I am discouraged and overwhelmed with paperwork...
So. I'm a first year teacher. I'm pretty confident in my classroom management, my planning, and my activities, which I suppose is the hard part.
But I am absolutely overwhelmed with grading. I used to be able to bribe myself with coffee to force myself to work, but I'm finding that, with 200 essays to grade (one of the three assignments was picked up in September--I am so far behind) I am having an extremely difficult time motivating myself to pick up those papers--and I'm out of money too, so that makes it difficult.
I'm not sure what to do.
I was hired at a school that is 45 minutes away from my home when traffic is decent, and am always exhausted by the end of the day--driving for an hour and a half in good traffic every day is hard. I teach six classes total and have 130 students--next semester it will expand to 150. I teach five of my six classes in a row (1st through 5th, baby!) and then frequently have lunch duty--my only other off-period is the very last one of the day.
I tend to leave at 3:40 every day to avoid the worst of the traffic and promise myself that I'll grade when I get home.. but then it's five o'clock and I'm hungry and all I want to do is sleep. Then I feel guilty for picking up Subway because I'm almost always broke--I work at a charter that pays us about 6,000 dollars less a year than a typical first-year teacher, and with my bills and tires and car-maintenance that I have to perform in order to make it to work, I am just as broke as I was in college.
Or, conversely, I'll stay at school and work and work and work and never see daylight because, if I stay, I frequently stay until 8 p.m. (lose track of time) and get home at 9 p.m, forget to eat, and promptly fall asleep.
Anyway, I'm exhausted and behind. Maybe the best thing I can do for myself is just stay at school, but I'm burning out. This is probably normal, something experienced by everyone... But if anyone has any advice for things I can do differently, I'd really appreciate it. What can I do?
My class schedule is similar to yours, and my student load is a little larger. Believe me when I say that it's completely manageable, as long as you use your school time appropriately. What do you normally do during your planning period?
You can minimize your grading by having students grade most of their work themselves. You can also collect certain assignment and enter them for completion/attempt only--give 100% for full credit, 0% for no credit, and some other mid-range grade for an incomplete or partial attempt. Obviously this doesn't work with every type of assignment, but it works with some, and it might work for you.
You don't have to grade every single piece of paper that graces your desk. It's okay to scan/skim certain assignments and either hand them back or toss them without grading them. It gives you a good idea about their level of understanding of the material without requiring a lot of time or energy, so you can tweak your teaching as necessary to address deficiencies or move forward.
You should just go ahead and throw out the assignment that you collected in September. It's been two+ months since then, so any feedback you might have been able to offer is probably irrelevant at this point.
Finally, you should stagger your due dates so that different classes turn in their big assignments/projects/essays on different days. Grading 30-40 essays is a lot more manageable than grading 150 at once.
I update my student website (as required by my school), input grades, and look at papers, usually. Unfortunately, when I do have a lunch period, there are students in my classroom for a tutoring program and that teacher loves to talk with me--and there are always a ton of teachers in the lounge, so I don't have a quiet place I can go to grade.
Caesar, thank you for your encouragement. I can't throw away the assignment for September because it's a mastery grade and essay.
How do you motivate yourself to pick up the stack of papers?
I also teach 6 classes a day, but my planning period is 2nd period. I agree with everything Caesar said.
I would add that, with practice, you will get faster at grading. I can get through a stack of papers so much faster now than I could in my first year of teaching. (I'm on year 5.) You actually have to do the grading to get faster at it, though!
Also, the thought of grading the whole stack at once can be discouraging. Try to grade them in smaller amounts. Until you get caught up, grade 3 at breakfast, 3 when you first get to school, 3 at break, 3 at lunch, etc. Just grade a few of the papers at a time, all day long, and pretty soon you'll be through them. I can always face 3 papers; I can't always face 150 papers.
Third, have a rubric for grading. If you know exactly what to give points for and take points away for before you start grading, grading goes so much faster.
Good luck! Use this Thanksgiving break to get caught up!
You just have to do it. That's really all there is to it.
I don't love doing the dishes, but I still have to do them. It's the same with grading. You just do it.
My recommendation is that you get your grading under control during your prep period. Stop dealing with the class website during your prep period, at least for now. In my experience, being on the computer can be a huge time-suck, and you don't have that time right now. Instead, focus on your grading until you get through all of it. Inputting grades into the gradebook should be a very speedy process--no more than 5 minutes per assignment or so--and you can't even do that until all your grading is done anyway. Do your class website stuff from home or in the morning before classes begin.
If that September essay is important, you need to deal with it now. You owe it to your students and to your administration to get assignments back to your students in a timely manner.
You're just going to have to get through it as Caesar suggests. In the future, simply assign less work that requires you to read and provide comments.
For the moment, simply to get these done, skim through the papers, and provide comments in shorthand. I use 2-3 letter codes to mean certain things like: ic-incomplete thought, or cs-complete sentences please, or smiley faces to indicate awesome parts.
If work is required to be mastered, I have students grade them themselves as we work as a class grading our partner work.
Every day in the first five minutes of class while a student is taking roll and the class is working on their kick-off I have students pass their daily homework to the aisles and I just go around checking for completion with a check, check plus, or check minus. Students record this into their own tables of contents and at the end of the unit, I just add the points together from the front page and enter the score into the grade book. If students want to receive a higher score they can complete it within a week and put it into my grading inbox. It takes literally 3 minutes each day to get through checking off all of the make-up work. That's only 8 minutes a day spent grading the majority of the work we do in class. Students get immediate feedback and so have an incentive to complete work.
I try to do most of my grading in class so I don't have to work on it during my prep or at home, whether it be checking for completion or having students grade their own work. I can't do this for everything of course, but it gets rid of most of it. Find a system that is automatic and takes very little of your home or extra time.
Our school requires all teachers to have things done and entered into the gradebook within two weeks of having assigned the assignment.
For updating my website, I use google docs. I'm still creating the curriculum for most of my things right now because I am a first year teacher too, but when I create worksheets and assignments on Google Docs, I simply put them into this folder that is automatically shared to my website, and it can be done from my desktop or the web client. There are ways to automate your website updating. If your school requires like news updates about your class, link a twitter feed to your website, and you can update it on the fly from your phone anywhere.
I also teach first through fifth (7 a.m. start) and have 164 students at the moment. I second everything that's been said, especially the grading rubric--once you get it set up, you can use it again and again. You might also grade for a specific thing on each essay--effective introductions, for example, or good supporting detail.
Regarding the teacher who talks to you during your prep--consider a set of earbuds connected to an inexpensive mp3 player playing soft music. That sends a signal that you're "aurally unavailable."
Perhaps this isn't useful for your subject, but I do this a lot and it makes it go so much faster.
I give a quick look at every paper and seperate immediately into piles. Good job, bad job. Then I go through the good stack and seperate into "meets my expectations" and "amazing." The lower stack gets seperated into "not quite there, but close" and "totally wrong." (Those are my words, I don't write that anywhere!) Then I mark them on a four point scale- 4 is amazing and 1 is totally wrong. Gives the students feedback about where they are and goes quickly. If it's a short answer, put a small rubric across the bottom indicating what is a 1,2,3,4 so the students can see where they flubbed. Usually the only one that really needs marking is the lower stack. Higher stack gets smiley faces or underlines on the awesome parts. To record in a gradebook make a 4 a 90-100%, 3 is a 75-90, 2 is somewhere less then 75 and a 1 is a 60% (or less). Just choose a number that works for you.
Paperwork is huge.... But it does get easier with more experience. Ask a veteran teacher how thy manage the paperwork load at your school. They will give you the best advice since they understand your teaching situation intimately.