Is not touching marking for 72 hours good for teachers?

Having to leave piles of marking untouched for 72 hours is surely no great hardship – or at least that's what Stephen Petty assumed...
22nd November 2020, 12:00pm

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Is not touching marking for 72 hours good for teachers?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/not-touching-marking-72-hours-good-teachers
Large Pile Of Exercise Books

While the relationship between me and my life partner, the marking pile, has always been mutually hostile, things have reached a new low of late.

I've long resented the way it constantly follows me around, forever lurking alongside me in my classroom, teamroom and passenger seat. It even has its own chair at home and its own permanent nagging place inside my head. 

Sometimes, I've tried sitting the pile down and having a heart-to-heart chat, just to try to clear the air. "It's not me, it's you," I've tried telling it, in no uncertain terms.

But now that I know that my wretched stacks of orange exercise books could perhaps even kill me, I am not sure we should have any kind of future together. 

Coronavirus: Leaving marking for 72 hours

At first, this term I joined many other teachers in quite welcoming the health advice saying that we should not touch any such pile of work for at least 72 hours.

Maybe there were a few teachers out there who were frustrated by that ruling, impatiently counting away the hours until they could crack on with the job, but I sensed that most of us were somehow able to cope with the self-denial required. We could wait longer if necessary. Much longer. 

I thought that the new rule might make marking less burdensome, particularly as we were then required to leave it for another 72 hours before returning it to students. 

However, this belief has proved entirely delusional. Putting off the marking doesn't make life easier. It is like many a solution to flooding or traffic congestion: it just causes an even worse build-up further downstream. 

Within a few weeks, my own pile was no longer just an eternal irritant; I had created a monster. I spent an entire weekend trying to slay it. 

Slaying the marking monster

The alternative recommendation is for us to get students to submit their work online. Unfortunately, for substantial pieces of work, this is cumbersome, time-consuming and often the wrong way up. My neck hasn't yet entirely recovered from all the head-tilting required during the last lockdown. I'm damned if I am going to go through all that again. 

Besides, schools are now giving exam students a plentiful supply of mini-tests and mocks, in case they are required to rank and grade them all again. So there is more traditional marking than ever. Traditional marking is not going away any time soon

To stop the marking monster coming back again, I am having to abandon that 72-hour waiting rule. Instead, I just have to try to be as safe as I can - and hope that it is enough to sanitise my hands before and after each book and to keep my hands well away from my face. And just hope that I am not unlucky. 

Besides, isn't that what teachers are doing all the time in school at the moment? Taking precautions and hoping that we stay lucky

Stephen Petty is head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire

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