When I was in high school, there was a teacher who was notorious for leaving homework papers and tests totally marked up with red ink. I'm not saying corrected, mind you. A returned-paper tended to have jerky lines running down the paper, often curving, sometimes halting, but the lines were always numerous. As only student are able, we came to believe that this teacher had narcolepsy and simply fell asleep hundreds of times while grading papers, those sudden falls into the abyss of sleep not stopping him from dragging marking pen across the paper.
Turns out that it was just his way of making us think he was grading the papers.
Last night, I was reminded of this as I sat in bed grading a batch of Latin quizzes, I like to grade-and-return overnight so the kids know quickly what they are mastering and what they need to continue to study. Like any class, the grades run from those kids who never miss a point to those who struggle enormously.
Yet there was none.
Not a single word wrong.
Knowing where he sits and as I'm pretty vigilant in administering exams, I jumped out of bed with joy. This kid, I know, has worked so hard and here he is, rocking it on a vocabulary quiz. Such was my joy that I logged into the computer, pulled up the online grading program, and added the quiz/grade so that, should he check late in the evening or early this morning, he'd see his mark.
So I also did what any other semi-seasoned teacher would do. I tore through my drawers (in my desk, not my underwear) looking for a sticker. I finally found, pushed into an obscure corner of a seldom-used drawer, three smiley faced stickers. It was with great pride that I affixed one such sticker next to the 10/10 grade. Not surprisingly, the remaining quizzes - although some of them were good - did not quite bring me the same satisfaction.
This has already been a really long week. We pulled off our second annual "U of D Jesuit: Pledge Detroit" day. We have had spirit week. We have collected money. We have a rally that we have planned for this afternoon. We have a Homecoming dance for which we have sold tickets and t-shirts. My students have read Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, the Gospel of Matthew, and have come to lust after an increased knowledge of the pleasures of the Ablative Case. I have a cold, I barely have a voice, and I'm not sleeping well.
Yet last night's triumph on a quiz - one of well over a dozen such quizzes we've had already - may emerge as the highlight of my week.