Posted in Overdrive, Philosophies

Emoticons about Grading, Part II โœŒ

I’m still learning how to use the emoticon keyboard on my PC. Not sure why I’m not just writing my blog posts on my iPad Pro. 21st century problems.

It’s been raining frequently. I wanted to plant loofah seeds today, but I didn’t get around to it yet, and I’ve already bathed. I leave in an hour to teach at College of the Sequoias…

But hey, seems like the loofah doesn’t go outside for two more weeks anyway…

…If it weren’t scorching Fresno. That’s why we’re the fruit basket of California.

ยฝ Fiction ๐Ÿคฐย August 1985 ๐Ÿคฑ

I’ll plant my loofah tomorrow. I can always move the grow pot inside, and flip on the grow lights, if loofah can’t handle August heat. Hell, I can barely handle August. On August 2nd, 1985, when my mom when into labor, and I crawled out of of her, I only meant to tell her to turn the damn air conditioning on.

Once Upon a Timeย ๐Ÿ‘Žย Emoticon Story ofย Gradingย ๐Ÿ‘Ž

I have a storyย ๐Ÿฑโ€๐Ÿš€๐Ÿฑโ€๐Ÿ’ป as anecdotal evidence
of the power of grading re-framing;

a storyย ๐Ÿฑโ€๐Ÿ‰๐Ÿฑโ€๐Ÿ‘ค about a 4th year English professor
becoming an emergency credentialed SPED math high school teacher

and falling into belly-of-the-๐Ÿ‹๐Ÿ‹
grading situations like:

  • struggling to understand assignments,ย andย let me ๐Ÿ˜ต๐Ÿง you,ย 
    long ago, in ๐Ÿฆ„๐Ÿฒ years, I had the same experience
    as a graduate student
    learning how to be a professor;
    and it shook more emotions out of me,
    and took more sleepness nights from me
    than any the other graduate students
    seemed to suffer
    at the time;
    learning how to teach
    continued ๐Ÿ’Ž๐Ÿ’-mining
    ๐Ÿ‘ถ๐Ÿ‘ง-depth issues out of me for months,
    my life acting
    like a ๐Ÿง๐Ÿง, arms flailing everywhere.
  • then replacing that gaping chasm
    of ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ฐ with fear, a ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ’ fear
    that you will be ๐Ÿ›’๐Ÿ“‰ again,
    that you will beย ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ฐย again,
    like that traumatic echo from your first ๐Ÿš—๐ŸŒŒ,
    until you are ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿฆ‹
    all the bins in your office
    in color-coded labels
    with Washi tape,
    glue sticks,
    & gel pens;
  • all-nighters looming over student essays,ย because
    I have important 3am ๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿซ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿซ to contribute
    to their ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐ŸŽ“๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐ŸŽ“ experiences,
    likeย I’ve got authentic stuff to say
    and only ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ˜‘๐Ÿ˜ถ๐Ÿ˜ฅ to say it with,

and of course, I’ve endured four years of ๐Ÿฆƒ๐Ÿฆƒ
withย double-spaced ๐Ÿ›๐Ÿ›essays on my list of โœ…โœ… tonight.

Workview ๐Ÿคจย Respectfully Disagree, Part II ๐Ÿค’

When I’mย grading,ย I’m thinking about this,
and I’m doing meaningful business like:

  • critically analyzing a student’s opinions, and how they defend those opinions, so I can instruct them how to write in a rich (i.e., fulfilling) and effective (i.e., convincing) way;
  • questioning a student’s opinions, if they haven’t questioned them already (i.e., making sure the hill they’re willing to die on represents a belief system they’re willing to die for);
  • writing comments on student papers that I intend to use to personalize their next in-class composition book entry, so I can guide them to that rich, effective, & value-driven life;
  • preparing things to offer studentsโ€”either as a class, or as individuals, in casual one-on-one conversations that I’m mostly sure we’ll haveโ€”to help them fashion a reliable, thorough map of where they’re going: the industries and majors that pique their curiosity; the nooks and crannies their interests drive them to explore; the people they ought to Google; the books they ought to read; other college classes they ought to take.

I do these things not out of pay, (because the pay is insanely low,) but out of fulfilling a purposeful place in my community: to educate and counsel.

So I do as much as I need to effectively educate and counsel,
not to effectively quack, “That’s not my job,”
not to effectively quack, “That’s beyond my workload,”
and I consider anything beyond my hourly pay
a charity, like volunteer work I choose to offer
weekly to children who need extra care.

I like to think I teach for good reasons.

Grading shouldn’t take the brunt
of mid-management public education
taking advantage of teachers with good intentions,
taking advantage of teachers’ moral explanations
to live near poverty line
with graduate degrees, publications, honors,
and passion in spades;

grading should be an organic process
of the teacher sharing a conversation with the student,
with the administrator all but removed,
even the classroom walls
and the physical wall

the sharing of a virtual conversation
through an essay
a mathematical puzzle
or a computer theorum

so students can learn how the wondrous human brain
communicates in infinite ways
beyond standardized curriculum’s expectations.

This is the mindset I have when I grade,
when I listen to a student’s story
through their essays,

when I consider how to nurture their strengths,
smooth edges on weaknesses,
and reassure them, writing isn’t about grammar,

as I collect enough coin
from the Golden State shavings of taxes
to eat beef once a week, chicken other days,
with the occasional treat of beer and pizza,
just enough pay for happiness, then charity
for the hours worked;

as I get paid at the community college for 3 hours a week,
then work 15 hours a week,
or I offer 12 volunteer hours a week to the communityโ€”

Of course,

I’m glad to volunteer helping people who want to learn;
it doesn’t really matter if you’re my student,
a person confused on a side walk,
or a forum conversation;

and given I personalize my classroom instruction,
it’s mighty difficult to not care about my students
as people who need writing help.

I love classrooms on a macro level,
the way I love the people in Fresno
for being friendlier than the people in Irvine,
the way I love California for providing enough variables
in landscape and weather to build
entire fantasy world experiences
out of weekend trips, the way I love

the autism gene for making me
hypersensitive enough to appreciate
my five senses in a unique way
as I stand in the mists of a waterfall.

I love students and the teaching process wholesomely,
and so if my grading is not equally joyful,

bursting-at-the-seams purposeful
to the point I can re-frame all those extra work hours as charity,

then my grading technique must not be working.
This is the only way I know how to grade.
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Kourtnie McKenzie holds an MFA (Fiction) from Fresno State and a BA in English (Literature Studies) from Cal State Fullerton. When she isn't writing novellas, she's moonlighting as a professor at Fresno City College and College of the Sequoias. To read more of her writing, visit

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