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A Teacher's Déjà vu

As I fell into my deskchair, happily exhausted from a day of teaching writers, it occurred to me: "I've been here before."

Back in 2012, I wrote about such a day.  Some of the references to technology have changed slightly (our school now uses Canvas® instead of Blackboard® for its LMS, and more of my students are using iPhones® for schoolwork, though certainly not all, or not even a majority).

The heart of that blog piece, though, is still true: Responding to students' writing is about more than marking errors and stamping a grade at the top. As I noted then (and now):

"I can tell by their expressions and their body language that they are bracing themselves for what they expect me to say. Many hand me their work with their heads down, almost mumbling, "I know this probably isn't right, but could you look at it please....Some are actually shocked when I start to ask them real questions about the content of their papers, and don't immediately start pointing out flaws; when I genuinely laugh at a well-turned phrase or sincerely ask about a revelation of personal pain or loss. There is a wave of shock, then relief when I announce that for this first essay, I do not have a required length nor will I deduct points for any grammatical error other than misspelled words...."

Our colleague, Bill Ferriter (The Tempered Radical), has launched a vibrant conversation about grading over at his most recent blog, which I encourage others to join. Sadly, I've learned that many, even most, of my students are not used to having someone actually consider what they've written and give them genuine, human respnose, rather than churning through these delicate first pieces like a grammar-check robot. Responding to student writing as communication not only creates community and catapults student self-esteem, but also lays essential foundation for real learning and writing success. From here, we'll move on to identifying areas of weakness, exploring new genres, sharing writing with classmates, and reaching readers beyond the classroom. But it all begins with this simple act of respect.

I'm hoping for many more days like this.


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