I've been feeling pretty good about myself for the last week, because I've spent several hours each day diligently reading and commenting on student work that I should have read and commented on earlier in the semester. I would look at my list, decide that I would read all the papers that had been turned in more than a week ago, and get at it. When I resurfaced a few hours later, I congratulated myself on being so diligent.
Never mind that the group of papers I hadn't read turned a week old three days later, long before the glow of self-satisfaction wore off. Never mind that in deciding to concentrate on papers, I was ignoring daily journal writing and revision that was already piled up before I started ignoring it, and didn't stop arriving while I was getting stuff done elsewhere.
I flatter myself that I did very well keeping up with student work this semester. It was only in November, when the press of first-paper revisions and second-paper drafts started to overlap, that I started falling behind. And here we are in the last week of class, I have several days of solid work behind me and feel like I should be on top of the pile given all the effort I've put in.
But the reality is that I'm hardly far enough up the well to get a glimpse of the sky. That light I see is really a reflection from the water that's still just inches below my feet. And my pride in putting in the hours and getting through the pile is mostly self-delusion. There's nothing to do but dive back in tomorrow and try to stay at the same level -- or maybe slightly above.