I'm just about done grading the first batch of sixty-five or so exams for World Civ. In spite of the fact that the students did better than I had expected- and probably better than they expected- I'm still reaching the point I usually do in grading in which exhaustion, and even nausea, sets in.
Grading is long and painful, and in no way as subjective as people like to think it is. After you've graded a few hundred essays, you have a fairly good grasp on what an A, B, C, D, and F essay looks like. So, I know at first read what the grade should be. And then, it usually goes up a bit because I remember that these are freshmen, and it's the general education course, and I'm not as tough as I like to pretend to be.
For me, grading exams is a process that follows the basic stages of grief, and is often a very similar experience.
Denial: I often expect the worst and am blown away at first read. "Wow! These exams aren't half-bad! Why I'd say they're even really good!"
Anger: "But, you know, looking at them again, I don't understand why they can't say anything that wasn't in the lecture. Jesus, did they even read the books at all? This is all stuff I said in recitation, and, on second glance, they got a lot more things wrong than I first noticed! Damn!"
Bargaining: "Okay, so they're really not that great as far as exams go. But, again these are kids who just got out of the public high school system. So they really aren't prepared for this level of work. Maybe if I give them grades that aren't great, but still a lot better than they deserve, it will scare them and they'll work harder on the next exam..."
Depression: "They didn't even care enough to fulfill the most basic requirement: reading the books. They just repeat what they heard in class, incorrectly, and only write what they think is the bare minimum. And then they expect an A+. Does anyone else care about this subject? Is western civilization really dead? Who am I doing this for? Why don't I just quit and travel through India, like I've always wanted to do?"
Acceptance: "Okay, so they're not the great batch of exams I had hoped for... But, they're also not the train wreck I thought they were turning out to be. Actually, this is pretty standard for a group of World Civ students. The average is about a B-. That's not terrible. I can live with it. Okay, now let's give the exams back and see if they can live with it."