Cruelest Month

For everyone else, April is the month where nature springs back to life, love is in the air, pleasant days and good feelings.

I feel like in the academic calendar, April is the equivalent of winter. The year is dying, disappointments abound, there is frantic work to harvest whatever is left of this year’s efforts. I can’t remember an April since I began work as a professor where I felt relaxed and in control, except years when I was on leave. I always stumble into May out of energy, horribly behind in everything. I think I see the same in at least some of my students and many of my colleagues.

As long as I’m talking workload, here’s one modest riposte to the refrain that academics only teach a few hours a week and that’s the sum total of their job. This weekend, I have to finish grading approximately 70 4-5 page papers from two classes. I timed myself the other day: I spend on average about 15 minutes per paper reading and marking. That adds up to a lot of hours before it’s done.

I’ve got some more substantive entries stored up. If I can catch my breath a bit, I’ll try to push those out over the next few days.

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6 Responses to Cruelest Month

  1. AndrewSshi says:

    I like to think of marking as the price you pay for winding up in a career in which you get paid to read and write about stuff you like. And at least your Swathmore kids probably know how to punctuate and form complete sentences.

  2. Sdorn says:

    Imagine you go through all that… and then your children’s birthdays are both in May, and you have some summer obligations, and your anniversary is in May, and there are the end-of-the-year obligations at your kids’ schools…

    That’s my typical spring. 😉

  3. AKShutt says:


    I read your blog at least once a week and enjoy everything you write. I’m also in the middle of grading, and finding the work slow-going. I spend about a half hour on each paper–more or less–depending on the quality of the writing.

  4. Fats Durston says:

    35? Big classes. (Or have you put off grading long enough that it’s two rounds….)

    -Fats Durston, whose next student question will be, “Whend’we get our papers back?”

  5. And we were brilliant enough to schedule two department meetings on curriculum reform for mid-April…

    One of the must frustrating aspects of grading for me is that I spend so much longer on weaker papers than I do on good ones. OK, they need my help more, but the strong students would probably appreciate detailed feedback more…but it’s just such a relief to be able to write ‘yes, good, yes, good example, well put’ in the margins instead of labouring over every sentence.

  6. I was thinking about this post recently: I feel much the same way. In fact, I’ve long felt that there was a season missing from my personal calendar: Spring. When the “Spring” semester starts, we’re deep in winter (whatever that means wherever we are), but when it ends, and we come up and look at our shadows, it’s pretty much Summer.

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