I do middle school now but have done high school in the past. What I like is that the kids are older and can handle more challenging material, they have more real life experience to relate to the matieral and can be more serious about their futures. Also, HSs can be looser places. At middle school there is a lot of dress codes, rules, etc, where as the high schools I've been to are more flexible.
I think you learn pretty quickly to NEVER assign all 185 students an essay due the same day. Often you teach several different classes (for example, you might have college prep Eng 9, 10th grade ELD, and a couple of classes of "regular" Eng 10) so they aren't all in the same place. Even when I have had them all pacing to gether, you can say period 1 is doing a complete essay this week while the other classes are doing response logs, or other activities. Next week per 2 does an essay while the other periods are doing some other activity. I also rarely read a complete essay. Usually the if we are practicing opening and closing paragraphs, they are just graded on that. Or, I'm just looking for use of quotations, or something, whatever we are studying. I 've taken courses from a teacher named Scott Purdy. He says the most important thing for improving student writing is that they write A LOT and if you are bogged down in grading, you won't assign a lot of writing, so it is in everyone's interest for you to find creative ways to grade better and with less work for you. His book "Teaching Students to Write " is amazing.