This semester, I'm fortunate to have a very light teaching load. That's because my Chair is a Good and Merciful Chair, who decided that the grants I brought in last year actually bought me out of a bit of my teaching this semester.** So I'm only teaching two undergrad classes (both ones I've taught before), plus one independent study for a grad student who showed up to work with me just as I left for Fellowship City.
This was very nice, as I had to function on teaching autopilot for the month of September while I worked on my book MS & tenure file, all while adjusting to post-fellowship re-entry.*** But while sailing through my classes, I completely forgot that the grading was piling up. So now, I find myself in Grading Jail. Thursday, I finished grading a stack of papers for my intro class, just as they were finishing their midterms. So net gain/loss: zero. Five minutes ago, however, I finished another stack of papers for my upper-division class, so I'm pushing ahead.
You know what has helped me? The proverbial file in the cake sent to bust me out of Grading Jail? It's simple: A timer. Yup: I now set a timer for grading (mine happens to be and "egg timer" downloaded from Mac widgets, which pops up a chicken at the end and says "time to check the grading!"). Each three- to four-page paper gets ten minutes, then I move on to the next one. I do a six-paper (one-hour) stack, then take a break. Three sessions like this (either back to back or spaced out during the day), and I can crank through almost 20 papers, writing fairly detailed comments all the while. It's fantastic.
UPDATE: I've managed to get through all the papers for my advanced class, and the larger papers for my intro class. I now have remaining a stack of short assignments for my intro class, and their midterms, which they took on Thursday. Next Thursday, advanced class sits for its midterm, so that's my deadline for getting the materials for intro class polished off. My goal is, by next Friday, to have only one stack of grading on my desk, and to possibly be completely busted out of Grading Jail by a week from Tuesday. At least I know what I'll be doing for the next week and a half...
**Actually, her repsonse when I contacted her in February to schedule my Fall Semester classes was, "You're teaching this fall? I thought you had three semesters?"
***The biggest challenge here was that I had forgotten about the stupidity: mostly administrators, but also some students. Sadly, I readjusted to this distressingly quickly.