“Do Not Want!”



It is once again nearing that time, when teachers need to submit report card grades for their courses. We are a week out from the Grading Window opening in the MISIS computer program, and I have a big stack of graded papers that need to be entered into the online spreadsheet. It’s not a big chore…but it is repetitive and time consuming. I’m about a third of the way through my impressively sized stack of assignments, so realistically, I can be ready to “pre-consult” with students about their probable grades at the start of next week, before the Grade Submission Window even opens.

Still…it’s a pretty boring job. Even amortized into reasonable blocks, ahead of any kind of deadlines, you are really just looking at a list of numbers, finding the right row and column, and entering the numbers. You also need to manually error check, because MISIS isn’t all that great a program, and sometimes makes very arbitrary spreadsheet entry or calculation decisions. Usually, that manual error check is just a second “eyeballing” of the values, but there are a whole lot of values.

Let’s do the math. For a five week grading period, you need a minimum of one grade per week, by District policy. If a column is an assignment, which is in turn graded, that’s five columns. Then, if a class has forty students in it (like my period 4) then you have forty rows, times five columns, leading to some two hundred data cells per class, per grading period. For five classes on a schedule, in a standard six period day, that comes out to one thousand data cells per five week period, per district policy, for classes of my size.

It’s a whole lot like being an accountant.

Also…you can’t just leave a cell blank, and have it count as a zero. You have to manually enter the zero, otherwise the system counts the assignment as somehow not applying to that student. So, you don’t actually save work on students that don’t produce anything, by not having to even make the clicks and keystrokes…those need to be entered.

It is fairly typical for students to comment, “I don’t like that teacher, I’m not doing their work.” As shortsighted as this seems to the outsider, imagine that you are the teacher. That’s an unpleasant student who has chosen to reduce your workload substantially, by not doing anything. You don’t have to grade any papers, and you can just enter a row of zeroes. A truly clever and unpleasant student would in fact do all of the work, at a high level of quality, thus maximizing the work outside of class that their teacher needed to do. Students have that whole “spite resistance” thing all backwards.

Still, all of the data needs to be entered, hence the artwork.

I wanted to capture the frustration with mundanity that this kind of data entry really captures. Every job has its downside, and for teaching, it is the book keeping. For every meaningful conversation about “Catcher in the Rye”, there must be an assignment. The more content you deliver, the more drudge work there is at the end. I try and counter the drudgery with truly rewarding conversations and debates in class, solid paper topics, and so forth. Still, no matter what, you eventually get back to the book keeping. It is inevitable.

Eagle eyed readers who are true Star Wars fans will note that the protagonist is wearing an Imperial Knight’s uniform, from the Dark Horse Comics’ series “Legacy.” The Knights were pretty cool looking, in their red and black suits…and although they worked for an Evil Empire, they were champions of justice and law within that Evil Empire. In other words, their jobs were a whole lot like mine. Also, her colleague is dressed in an ensemble based on General Grievous’ attire, from “Revenge of the Sith.” He was a pretty lame bad guy, but an excellent toady, so that seemed very much on point. So we have today’s bystander, who at least has a bunch of Grievous’ gear, if not being the cape wearing cyborg himself.

Simultaneously…today I decided to channel the Dark Side on the people repairing my car, making the Imperial Knights’ uniform even more relevant. To be brief…a mechanic should never tell me that you can’t even get the part my car needs from its home in Germany, when I can go get it myself forty minutes away in Sun Valley. That kind of misrepresentation becomes obvious really quickly, once I decide to get of my @$& and look into matters myself. As a result, with any luck my car should be making it home quite soon.

Was there a series of rough conversations? Things that might be considered tempermental? Harsh language, without expletives? All of the above, True Believers. However, there is no more excuse that the “parts are not available.” With any luck, they have a simple but boring job to do, just like me, and we are both done by Friday afternoon.

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