The Shay Rebellion | Christopher Shay


As I sit at my computer, I’m surrounded by mounds of essays that I mistakenly promised to get back to my students today. I didn’t get them done in time. Every interstitial moment of the past couple weeks, I’ve been either grading or feeling guilty about not grading. With so many students,  properly reading over, correcting, and grading a paper is a time-consuming and exhausting activity. I guess I sort of knew this in the abstract, but I certainly hadn’t fully internalized it. Everyday I teach I gain more respect for my old teachers. I love being in front of the class, where you have the chance to inspire, to learn something yourself, and to make real connections. The “you” that is in front of the class is the person who will be judged by all of your students. This more public part of teaching is obviously important, but at least it will be remembered by all of your students. However, all the work that goes behind the scenes is thankless. At least as a student, I knew I took it for granted.

In my case with 170 students, if each person turns in a 1,000 word essay it adds up to 170,000 words. For reference, Moby Dick is only 208,000 words. I have to copy edit the grammar, make suggestions about structure and content, and come up with a final grade. After a full day of teaching, I can only drink so much PG Tips before becoming too tired to grade fairly. The papers range the entire gamut from the slapdash to the profound. In the less successful essays, the English grammar is often difficult to correct, and in the truly insightful ones, it’s painful to reduce my students’ passion to a letter grade.

I have an idea to improve the lives of teachers. A colleague of mine at Shue Yan told me that it wasn’t just me but that all teachers treasure a little acknowledgment every and now again that some one has noticed that what they’re doing matters. I don’t need much recognition—I’m just a temporary visitor to the teaching profession—but the real teachers, who have devoted their careers to it, really do deserve more. I’m open to new acronyms but right now I’m calling the movement BARTAB, which stands for Buy A Real Teacher A Beer. From now on, I pledge that every time I’m at a bar or pub and I run into a teacher I will buy that person a drink. Not only does does the teacher probably need the drink, but the teacher deserves a little recognition now and then.

Category: Blog Entries


3 Responses

  1. mike says:

    let me guess, you’re writing blog entries instead of grading papers?

  2. becauseyouasked says:

    I am not to know why you find the grading of English paper such a difficult and hard procedure. It would be seem to me something that was going to come naturally to someone as well versed in one’s own language. The accommodation of a twice language is a hard part. Myself doesn’t even correct my grammar before expelling my papers to me professors. I didnt think they can comprehended that yet.

    I have thoughts you would enjoy to partake in this line of thinking.

  3. Peter says:

    Yo Chris. I totally envy your life right now. Teaching in China sounds awesome. Drop me a line sometime soon, email or something. My life has become insane recently and I bet you would be interested in the details. Basically I have joined the Lindsay Lohan club. Enjoy yourself and I hope to hear from you sometime soon.

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