G2 rainbow

I assess and mark physical science laboratories for grammar, vocabulary, spelling, science content, format, organization, and cohesion using a rubric. With 32 students and a laboratory due every week, I spend roughly six hours every weekend marking laboratory reports.

I realize that I could focus on a one type of error per week and ease my own marking load. This is an approach I have heard used in writing courses. I have found, however, that the laboratory reports improve across all of the areas I mark and improve rapidly early in the term. I hope to get some hard numbers of this improvement later in this term.

The result of this approach is that a laboratory report can wind up literally covered in ink early in the term. The amount of red ink would be enough to cause confusion. Thus I use multiple pen colors, red, blue, black, green, purple, even maroon. I prefer to use Pilot G2 pens - I do a lot of writing and I appreciate the smooth, easy feel of the G2.

I am apparently not alone in this preference - the company claims the pen to be a number one selling gel pen in the United States, they have a strong gel pen market share globally, and there is a cultish following to the pen. Thus I was excited to see a pack of twenty G2 pens in more colors than the seven color Newtonian rainbow.

With the price of G2s on this island, I will only need a small bank loan to afford this 20 pack! I have visions of twenty times the number of comments - or at least an eleven-fold increase (there are duplicates in the twenty pack and only eleven colors produced by Pilot).

By this time each term, the every weekend grind has me wondering whether my writing-across-the-curriculum each and every week is worth the effort I expend. Every weekend has me dragging papers around with me. Yet when I look at what is being turned in at this point in the term, I can see that the students have individually benefited. I am getting better written, more coherent laboratory reports. And the students are now used to cranking out a paper a week. What looked impossible to them the first week is now simply routine.

Some professors spend their every moment engrossed in their research and writing, taking time out only for an occasional lecture of a few hundred students, and leaving to teams of graduate assistants the task of marking and grading. They make important contributions to their fields of research and their names are remembered in their field for those contributions.

I publish not and leave behind no permanent edifice of contributed knowledge. Yet I have no regrets. Every year I again meet former students - this is the nature of living on a small island - and come to know of the impact their education has had on them in life. On a good day, my contribution is to others, not to a field of research. Each has their importance in the role of higher education.

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