Grading was probably my least favorite part of being a teacher because it underscored how much I didn't know what I was doing.* It also highlighted the fact that I had several inchoate and incompatible philosophies of teaching that I hadn't merged into any coherent theory. (I pictured it would be something like a cross between Stand and Deliver and Dead Poets Society.) Basically, I couldn't articulate what I was looking for. So my students didn't really know what I was looking for either. And I would then have to give them a grade based on... what, exactly? How well what they actually did measured up to a nebulous idea in my head? I also had trouble sometimes with giving lower grades, even if the work deserved it, because it seemed a value judgment on the person somehow, and I remembered my own perfectionism as a student. Suffice to say, I tended to procrastinate on grading, the papers piled up, and everyone wound up terribly unhappy.
Looking back, what I really wanted was for them to think, to engage meaningfully with the issues they were reading about and come up with their own ideas. (This means NO PLAGIARISM!!!) And I didn't know how to assess that. So if the students thought about their grades at all, they probably focused on superficial things, because that wound up being what was easiest to grade, there in the trenches. Based on what they said, I think they thought I wanted my own ideas parroted back at me. This was sad, and actually the last thing I wanted. It upsets me that this is what they had gone through school believing was important--just find the answers and fill them out. If I had realized earlier that this was a problem, maybe I could have broken them of this habit of ignoring their own thoughts, of assuming that I would be upset at them for having an original idea that disagreed with mine.
*To clarify exactly how much I didn't know what I was doing, I was hired as basically the 10th grade English teacher one week before classes started. I had no previous training, unless you count half a semester's worth of an education class in college. There was no preexisting curriculum or lesson plans for me to draw from. I had the English standards, a lesson plan template, and a dream of making a difference. That's about it.