Catching up, or contributing?

As many of you know, I’ve been stuck behind my computer since arriving in Athens, Greece.  This has, naturally, been a source of frustration to me.  Mostly, I’ve been stuck here grading papers and assignments.

A few weeks ago, I was at a conference in San Diego.  The speaker, Brendon Burchard, asked the attendees to think about their life in terms of “catching up”, or “contributing”.  Which defined the lives we were leading?

That’s an easy question for me to answer.  I spend most of my time “catching up”.

Here is the problem.  I teach Latin.  Most parents can’t help their kids with Latin.  I have a habit of stepping in to help.  Honestly, I like helping people.  I like tackling difficult problems, finding solutions, and then I like to show others the solutions.

Latin (and likely all languages) is a squirmy problem.  Unlike math, there is not just one solution.  There may be six, seven, or eight possible solutions to problems assigned in the book.

In college, I took the Law School Admission Test.  Did decently well, but that’s another story.  I remember being struck by something during the test.  Every answer was correct.  But, some answers were more correct than others.

Grading Latin is a bit like that.  When a student sends in her homework, she may have answered correctly.  But, there may be a more correct answer.  There is often a better way to say it.

A parent may look at the answer key, and then look at the student answer and say, “No.  Your sentence is not correct.  The answer key says something different.”  Of course, the student will protest, an argument may ensue, and another family signs up for grading on my site.

I don’t really want to stop grading.  I want to keep helping.  However, lately, I am falling further and further behind.

This is creating two problems.

Problem number 1: I am not responding quickly to families who have asked me to grade the work of their children.  I said that I would respond quickly, and now I am not responding quickly.   In my mind, that is dishonest.  It’s unsustainable.

Problem number 2:  I am not spending much time at all anymore creating new videos.  I am not spending much time anymore preparing for new courses.  I am not spending much time anymore studying Latin and Greek.  In other words, I am not contributing.

In other words, I am not contributing.  I am always “catching up”.  I knew there was a problem, but I couldn’t define it until I heard Brendon Burchard define it.  Now, I can stop thinking about it.

Several of you have sent extremely helpful emails with several helpful hints over the last few days.  This morning, those ideas merged into a bigger idea.  Thanks to you, I may have discovered a solution.

Over the last five years, or so, I have graded the assignments of thousands of students.  I have compiled the answers from those students.  When a student sends me a sentence translation, I save the translation, right or wrong.  If the translation is correct, I have another example of a good translation.  If the translation is obviously wrong, or if the translation contains flaws, I make corrections.  I then save the student’s sentence with my response and with my corrections.

I have collected all of these correct and incorrect answers in hundreds of files on my computer.  Anytime a student asks for a file, I turn it into a pdf and send it to the student.   I consider this one of the benefits of subscribing to my site.

This morning, it hit me.

I need to upload each of these files into the Member’s Only section of my site.  Why wait until a student asks for the files?  Why wait until the student asks for help?  Why not load the files into the Member’s Only section now?  Why not hand the students the tools I know they are going to need?

So, that is what I started doing.  Immediately.  Already, Henle exercises 330, 339, and 404 are up.  More will be coming every day until I have uploaded all of the 800, or so, pages I have written over the last several years.

Full disclosure.  I already see a problem with this plan.  Some students are going to receive an assignment, and they are going to go right to “exercise pick-a-number” and they are going to copy the answers.  Yes.  That is going to happen.  It’s human nature to look for the easy trail.  I can’t stop that.

Students, if you are reading this, don’t do that.  Attempt the exercises first.  Then, use the exercises in the Member’s Only section to check your work.  See how you did.  Learn from your mistakes.

As for grading next year?  Still up in the air.  I may, I may not.  I have started training my daughter, and we are both talking about it a lot.  But, it is a lot of work.  I spend between 20 to 30 hours a week grading assignments.  I am not sure I want to hand that to any kid, and in particular, my kid.

If I am currently grading your work, I will keep grading your work.  No worries.  But, I very likely will not provide the option for next year, or if I do, I will open that door for a limited number.

However, with that 800-page book of mine posted in the Member’s Only section of my site… I am feeling less bad about closing the grading option.

I am basically handing my notes to all of you.  This should free up more time.  Instead of catching up, I can contribute.