It's a rainy Monday, here in Chicago. I set aside that second stack of papers yesterday, focusing instead on family life and on preparing for the first rehearsal, this season, of the Alte Rockers, the parody rock band for which I sing and write and play (quite limited) guitar. The day was sweet, and the rehearsal joyous, with the return of our other male vocalist, David, after a life-threatening spinal condition that took him out for a year. Still, today I'm paying the price: an abashed, apologetic return to the classroom, with a day or more of grading ahead.
The interesting thing is, I'm not bothered by the prospect of the grading as such. To my surprise, I rather enjoyed grading that last stack of papers, typing up my comments in the margins of the on-line submissions. It's quite like editing essays for my journal, or for a book manuscript, and I find it gratifying--an extension of my teaching.
What bothers me, then, is partly the opportunity cost: the sense that there are so many other things that also need to be done, which I have to put on hold. But mostly it's just a matter of feeling that I've let my students down, making them wait so long for their grades.
Now that the promotion is in hand, I'd like to focus a bit more again on my teaching as such--not for the sake of evaluations, which don't matter any more, but because it's something that I'm quite good at, when I give it the time and attention it deserves. Some of my teaching, back before tenure, was really extraordinary, and of course after tenure I took several years off from writing and really dug down deep, pedagogically speaking, trying out new course structures and assignment models, all of which I seem to have forgotten or abandoned. (The older I've gotten, the more I seem to lecture, which is a problem, I think.)
In short, I could be doing better, in all of my classes, and I suspect that the more I find a way to focus on them as a priority, the happier I'll be, even when grading, even on rainy Mondays.