I have been grading non stop for hours. The great thing about this is that I've been grading Book Club papers. Students self-selected into "book clubs" to read professional books and discuss them in small groups. I suggested about four to five titles for students to choose from; they discussed the book on their own schedule, group members posted reflections of the discussions during the semester, then everyone wrote a reflective paper on the experience. This is the pay off - students are making connections between class activities and discussions and the books they read; they are making connections to their own student teaching experiences. These have been the best papers I've gotten on this assignment in a number of semesters.
I don't know whether students are just giving me what they think I want or whether their connections, inferences, and assertions truly represent their views. The optimist in me chooses to believe that they do - that the assignment has made a difference for them. I hope so. We need every good teacher we can get in middle school classrooms.
Truly, it was a pleasure to read the papers I graded tonight - makes grading them easy!