Reading of student papers, bluebooks, etc. a form of torture ... a matter of rubbing an iron file over one's teeth, or holding urine in one's mouth, or having the racket of a bulldozer in one's ear for an hour or two on end. — Newton Arvin
I'm grading a stack of seventy papers from my Business Communication classes this weekend. Ninety percent of my students are international, and English is their second or third language. It's grueling work, and I get grumpy. I moan about doing my part of the work I've assigned. Iron files over my teeth, I think. Urine in my mouth.
And yet, yesterday I received this email from one of last summer's students:
I'm Grace, a chinese girl, who are in your previous 2007 summer class in UC Berkeley. Do you still remember me?
I have learned a lot of things from you. Now it is 2008, beijing will hold the olympic games on Aug 8th. I'm living in Beijing. So I wonder can I enjoy the pleasure of sending an olympic postcard to you, one of my favorate teachers. This special postcard will be delivered on the exact opening day of the Olympic games from the center playground.
Can I send to the address as following:
If this is correct. I may begin to write my wishes.
Thank you, Grace, for stopping my self-pity dead in its tracks. How lovely that you wrote to me.
Newton Arvin, you're witty, but you're wrong. Reading student papers is not torture. Torture is torture. We're teachers, and grading papers is, really, only a vaguely onerous part of this job, this amazing job that allows us to connect with so many people.
I love it when students stay in touch. I'm thrilled that Grace remembered our class and took the time to write to me.
Whatever I feel about the Beijing Olympics, I'm very much looking forward to my postcard from Grace.