Professor Writer

Grading Papers a la Star Trek’s “Trouble with Tribbles”

The teacher settles down to grade her stack of papers with as much preparation as possible.

She has played on the internet for approximately 30 minutes, made tea, decided she couldn’t have tea without cookies, so she’d better bake some, made some more tea, and, having finally given up trying to dodge the unavoidable, settled in front of her computer with a plate of cookies and more tea.

She counts the number of files awaiting grading on the learning system.


She’s momentarily relieved.

That doesn’t sound so bad.

She starts the initial read through.

After a particularly difficult paper, she decides she deserves a break, any kind of break, and speedily clicks over into her email.

Where she finds 7 more paper files.

Three claim the learning system shut them out.

Two appear to have forgotten the existence of the learning system.

Two come with private messages about why these papers deserve this or that consideration when it comes to their low quality.

42 papers.

The teacher takes a deep breath, and reasons that by grading a dozen a day, she can still get them done in plenty of time.

Still, she gets up to restock the cookie plate.

When she settles back down, her laptop screen is flashing that she has new, incoming mail.

Six more files are waiting patiently in a row.

So, one third of an entire class saved their only promised 24-hour extension for this final research paper.

“Wise of them, really,” the teacher mutters as she takes a splashy sip from her shaking tea cup.

48 papers.

She goes to the kitchen for a paper towel to sop up sticky spilled tea. When she opens the cabinet, 8 more papers fall out.

The teacher swallows hard, scoops up the towels and papers, and heads out to check the mail-

Finding 12 more papers stuffed in the mailbox.

She gathers them up with her coupons and returns to the house.

As she puts her shoes away in the closet, she hears a disturbing sound, and looks up over the top shelf of baseball caps- as an avalanche of papers crashes around her head, spilling onto the floor around her feet.

The teacher frantically kneels to scoop them up, grumbling that they could have at least been stapled, when the doorbell rings.

She opens the front door to see a stack of papers from floor to the top of the doorframe.

She gapes.

It teeters.

Too late, the teacher tries to close the door, but the papers invade like a crashing wave, enveloping her as she’s swamped to the floor in layer after layer of crisp white copy covered in black type.

The teacher’s overwhelmed murmur floats up from below the mountain of essays.

“It’s not s’bad,” she slurs in a dizzy sort of voice. “A little every day. Just a little every day. That’ll get it done…”

The papers don’t answer.  

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