Skip to content

The Teacher Life: Grading Papers Over Holiday Break

November 24, 2018

Like many teachers across these United States, I am finishing a holiday week, which means I was off from school– technically.

It is true that I did not need to report to school this week. However, a notable part of Teacher Life is that school clings to the teacher whether said teacher is on school grounds or no.

On November 5th, I collected from my senior English students 107 formal essays on one of three fiction works of their choice (Silas Marner, Pygmalion, or Till We Have Faces).

I began grading them that very day, just a few as my school day allowed.

The entire lot followed me home. On Election Day (November 6th), a holiday from school, I graded roughly another 18 or so as I marathon-watched election results roll in.

The next day, Wednesday, I graded a few papers during the day– about six. Same for Thursday during the day, but Thursday night, I graded about ten more.

Of course, the weekend was my major opportunity to hit is hard, which I did Saturday and Sunday to the tune of perhaps another 25 papers.

All of this effort meant that I began the week prior to Thanksgiving break with about 38 papers to go. I knew realistically that I would not finish grading all before Thanksgiving, and I told my students so because they were asking about the grades (with the first one to ask the day after I collected the 107 papers), and I had begun to hold individual conferences with students about their papers.

But I could not get it all finished prior to break, and I knew it.

At the time that school let out on the Friday before Thanksgiving, I had only six papers left.

I left them in my living room as I went on vacation to visit friends in Georgia. And when I returned home on the day before Thanksgiving, there they were, right where I had left them: six more ungraded essays.

Now, you might think that after grading 101 of those essays, six hardly presented an issue, but I assure you that wasn’t so.

It was more difficult for me to face those remaining six than it was for me to begin tackling the 107. My mind was still on vacation. But I had to bring my mind back and get those six papers done.

And I knew that as much as I did not feel like grading six more papers, I surely did not feel like facing six more papers Sunday evening.

So, on Wednesday evening, after driving home from Georgia, after unpacking my car and getting laundry started, I graded one essay, then another, then a third.

Three to go.

The day after Thanksgiving, after mostly decorating my home for Christmas, I rallied myself for one more. And another.

That brings me to today, Saturday.

The last one.



(Note to interested parties: I intentionally assigned nothing to my students over break so that they might enjoy their holiday.)



Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.


Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.


  1. Eric Gidseg, Ph.D. permalink

    We fellow educators feel your pain as well as your relief. I’d like to add that even those of us teaching five and six year olds carry our work and indeed our children with us well beyond our time in the classroom. This is one of the exceptional things about our profession. And, of course, this is not recognized by most outside of the profession. Thank you for shining a light on the dedication needed to succeed as an educator.

  2. Jack permalink

    You’re doing The Lord’s Work, and don’t ever forget that.

  3. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    A really wonderful account of the difficulty in meeting personal and professional obligations. Some techy is cetain to recommend grading by a computer as “good enough.” Lucky students. They should read this post.

  4. Hey, that’s what you get paid the big bucks for, eh!

  5. Sal G. permalink

    The only time my dear now-departed father ever really yelled at me was when I brought home everything my yearbook staff hadn’t finished over my Christmas “vacation.” I held up our family Christmas dinner because I refused to stop working on that stupid thing. I cannot tell you how much I regret this and other similar decisions I made in my career.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. The Teacher Life: Grading Papers Over Holiday Break — deutsch29 – Nonpartisan Education Group

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s