Thursday, October 11, 2007
It's mid-semester in most U.S. law schools. Legal writing professors can easily fill the work day just preparing for class, teaching class, meeting with students, helping with faculty law school governance, and working on edits of their own summer writing. And somehow, during these already busy work days, we have to find time for our most crucial and time-consuming professional task: critiquing our students' papers. It is through these critiques that we provide one-on-one legal writing instruction for our students, serving as reader responder, coach, and professional guide. It is a task that needs to be done with care and consideration. Most legal writing professors are beyond the time in their lives when all-nighters are possible. And most do have outside lives. So how to find the time?
Try putting yourself on a diet, the grading diet. Say you have 40 students. They have just handed in their first memos. You need to critique and grade those memos in time for the feedback to be useful as they write their second memos. And so you've determined that they'll need your feedback within ten days. So you go on the grading diet. In this hypothetical situation, your diet would be four papers a day. Every day for the next ten days, straight through the weekend, you must grade four papers. Once you are up to steam, for a first memo, that might mean in the neighborhood of two hours a day of paper grading. Day in and day out, rain or shine, for ten days. And then you'll be done.
Most days two hours won't be a terrible burden. You won't have any marathon grading sessions in which your hand(s) and brain go numb. You won't lose sleep. And you'll be able to give freshly focused attention to each paper. So next time your grading is fraught with angst and late nights, consider going on the grading diet.