Have you ever had a teacher that gave you a ton of busywork? Teachers that hand out huge double-sided packets and expect you to have them completed by the end of class. If you have had this experience, then you have probably also thought to yourself there is no possible way your teacher would grade all of those papers.
You were right.
I actually very seldom hand out busy work but even when I do, I almost never grade it. This probably comes across as lazy teaching, and that is honestly part of it. Nobody likes grading, and it’s the easiest thing to cut out without adversely affecting the students, but there are a number of practical reasons why teachers choose not to grade tons of papers.
First of all, you can’t possibly grade every assignment your class completes. If you are lucky enough to teach only a few students for a short amount of time, then MAYBE grading everything they do is manageable. For the rest of us, grading everything simply isn’t feasible. Last year, “grading everything” would mean grading 50 minutes worth of work for close to 100 students, every night. That would take all night, and that doesn’t include the time I have to spend planning for the next day.
Secondly, it’s not necessary. As many first-year teachers inevitably find out, grading every assignment actually isn’t that helpful to students. The two main types of assessments are summative and formative. Formative is meant to evaluate how someone is progressing during a course, and summative basically tells you how well they did afterward, meaning grading is mostly for the teacher. Feedback on work can help students especially in classes that involve steps and procedures like math but not to the point where you need to grade every single paper.
Also, it is more than okay to assign work with no intention of grading it. Students need lots of practice and ‘at-bats’ with skills before they are truly proficient. A student may need to do hundreds of math problems a week to fully grasp a concept, but you don’t need to grade all of them. You just need to grade enough to know if they can do it, and if they can’t, you need to know where they messed up. Sometimes the work is for the student, not the teacher.
So yes, I am guilty of not grading everything I hand out. Moreover, I grade a lot of tasks for “effort” which is really just one step up from not grading at all. However, most experienced teachers now realize that good grading is not a matter of quantity but quality. It is more important for me to take a deep look at short exit tickets than it is for me to put Xs or checks by 2,000 problems a night. When students ask me, of course, I will lie and tell them I am grading everything because I want them to take it seriously. But I’m not grading all those papers, and I don’t feel bad about it.