What’s the deal with time? More specifically, even when I devote significant amounts of time to grading, commenting, conferencing, and prepping, I feel behind. It is important to remember that as humans (and not robots) we need time to let our thoughts wander. We need time to take a walk in the woods, to pet our pets, and to putter around the house. We need time for breaks because taking breaks is a form of self-care.
Last semester, I attended a writing workshop with the Teaching and Learning Center. My colleagues and I sat in a circle and did some freewriting on various prompts. The theme on everyone’s mind was TIME. In fact, the subject of time, specifically how much time it takes to grade, preoccupies so much of my brain space that I often spend an inordinate amount of time feeling guilty for going on an impromptu walk, watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, trying out a new recipe, or staring at the ceiling.
To justify my need for breaks and walks and to be sure I am not exaggerating how much time I spend grading, I did the math. This semester I have 63 students in four classes. Each class has approximately four writing projects through the semester. It takes me about 20 minutes to grade each major essay assignment. Each essay assignment, depending on the class and level, ranges from between 3-7 pages. 63 students multiplied by four projects equals 252 projects that I must read carefully and provide feedback. I will spend approximately 5,040 minutes or 84 hours reading and commenting on essay assignments, and this number is only accurate if I stick to a strict schedule of timing my reading and feedback to ONLY 20 minutes per paper. 84 hours is equal to 2.1 full-time work weeks, and these hours must be worked in on top of, around, through, across, in addition to face-to-face teaching, prep for those classes, conferences, emails, grading quizzes, in-class work, homework, committee work, and departmental task forces. These numbers illustrate why my own sense of time feels like an accordion compressed.
And yet, or perhaps especially, when we feel behind, teachers (and most humans generally) need a little time to meander, putter, and stare. We need down time because we are not robots. While this statement seems obvious on its surface, the practice of self-care is not always evident. Think of this blog post as a call to action. Do something to take care of yourself today, even if it’s to look up from your screen and stare at the wall for a few of those 84 hours.