Sometimes people ask me if grading essays is the least favorite part of my job. The answer to that is "no, not really," The first semester I ever taught composition, I recall staying up late into the night grading that first batch of essays. There was a palpable sense of satisfaction in giving feedback to students on their efforts to communicate something in an academic setting. I've since explored that venue many, many times (something like 8,000 essays graded todate) and I know the power it can have for students. When they and I engage honestly in the process, substantive change can happen.
How do I know this? Because I can see the change from one paper to the next and from one semester to the next. Students sometimes take more than one (and occasionally more than two) courses from me in succession. One recent student not only improved in writing ability, but his confidence level changed markedly. I recall him being unsure that even belonged in college in the first semester, and by the end of the third, he was in the honors program, headed to conferences and excited about a real career.
Am I tooting my own horn here a bit? Maybe, but I believe in what I do and I know it CAN make a difference. I'm glad when it does. I'm glad to be a part of it when it does. THAT is what's most satsifying about my work.
So... scoring essays is a little tedious when there are stacks of them, but if I can remind myself (and attend to each one this way) that this little feedback might help make a confident learner out of a timid student, I can make a difference.
Back to the stacks I go... packed head or not.