I know that some of my colleagues cannot schedule this much time for grading a test, and I admit that if my own children were still young, I am not sure how I would do this either. But as a writing teacher, this time is priceless. I learn my students, and their voices are so clear and strong, that I am humbled by the chance they give me to know them. And assessing learning with writing is an art, and every chance I have to practice that art is thrilling. I love that some of them veer off into the wild blue yonder of their own reactions--they still teach me about Beowulf every year. And those who stick with class discussion and their notes to focus their observations seem to consider stylistic choices more consciously as they grow accustomed to my way of working with them. And once in a while, I recognize the other Beowulf lovers in the class just by the way their words shimmer on the page.
The only downside for me is knowing that the formal essays are coming, and it is so hard to convince kids that the strictures placed on them are insignificant, that they still have a chance to strut their stuff for me. I work on that every year. Not sure of the solution (more writing? less sleep?)
*image attribution: http://www.onbeing.org/sites/onbeing.org/files/styles/large/public/6002204726_85b34c8c01.jpg