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Friday, December 14, 2012

Grading Adventures and Birthday Cake

I really want to know what my students have learned (and haven't) as well as allow them to learn the skills rather than just memorize "stuff."  I really do carefully review what students have produced and offer feedback.  Otherwise, why ask students to complete projects, right?  Yet, I see more and more instructors taking the "multiple-guessing test" route and only glancing through the projects, if they assign any.  Of course, these instructors are saving hours (let's be honest -- days) of grading "hard labor" but how about authentic learning?  No wonder our graduates are clueless... 

Anyway, back on track...  guess what I did all week?  Yep, grading! :)  Some projects were actually a joy to review.  Some I had to pull myself through and try hard to remain objective.  Using rubrics helps but you know how it goes...  I finished grades for my full-time job by 6:00 am this morning!  They are due at noon so I was six hours ahead.  Yay, me!

And so I decided to get a few hours of sleep...  Two hours later, my cell phone rang (I would have ignored the house phone but cell is usually urgent).  Our new instructional coordinator wanted to know if I updated the program performance review files.  Really?!  After just announcing late last week, in the middle of final exams and grading?!  Ah, sometimes usually support staff is clueless...  I politely (at least I remember being polite -- not sure since I was half asleep) told her that her deadline of early January will be met but not this week, no need to freak out and pester me now (well, I don't think I used those words, I sure hope not)...

Back to sleep...  Brrrrrrring, brrrrrring, brrrrrring!  A part-time instructor, panicking because she forgot how to enter her grades into the system.  She did manage to average them in the LMS but our reporting system is separate.  Help, grades are due by noon!  No kidding!  So I woke up enough to guide her through the steps.

Back to sleep...  Brrrrrrrring!  Another part-timer, with a different problem -- knows how to enter grades but has no idea how to average grades in the LMS!  This one takes much longer because of formulas and explaining, repeatedly, how to complete all steps.

Two part-timers, really?!  Never happened before but it has been a rough semester...  One of our full-time instructors resigned a week before classes so we had to pull warm bodies off the street to teach some of the courses.  As a result, I spent countless hours this semester troubleshooting all kinds of problems that experienced instructors are usually able to resolve on their own.  I am dreading next semester since we will still heavily rely on part-timers...

Now I am very tired but wide awake... if I go back to sleep, I will just get a headache... and I still need to finish grades for my TA position.  Just a few more hours but that needs to be done today, for my sanity.  I want to relax this weekend and resume writing on Monday.  I promised myself that I will not check email next week so I can fully concentrate on completing my prospectus.  Next week is a Christmas gift to myself.  If I manage to pull it through, what an amazing gift that will be!

Because I dive back into more grading, I need to do the fun part -- cake for S., whose birthday is tomorrow!  He also wants Pelmeni.

I decided to make this cake:  Gift Box Cake.  I am using my own recipe, though, and just use the decoration idea.  My recipe involves baking cookie sticks filled with cherry preserves.  The sticks are arranged in a rectangular pile, with sour cream-heavy cream-confectioner's sugar frosting generously slathered on, to completely cover the "base."  The combination of cookies, cherry preserves, and the above-mentioned frosting is -- Wow!  It's a family recipe, passed from generation to generation.  It looks very pretty when cut, too.

Instead of gingerbread men, I will use doves around the cake.  Or maybe just leave the "box" white.  White box and frosted red ribbon may look better without anything else?  Any thoughts/advice?

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