Anyway, I find it difficult and because of this difficulty, my success at the act is limited. I’ve graded thousands of student essays at this point. In graduate school, in my first encounter with student writing, I thought my job was to correct errors, leaving my students’ blue books laced with red marks.I didn’t really consider what would happen once I returned these documents.
I can drill them writing tight and clear sentences, but without an underlying process that causes them to believe in the value of communicating clearly, those drills become meaningless.I guess I figured they’d see my corrections and do it “right” the next time. Like most who stick with the teaching writing game, I eventually realized that my task was not to correct, or even to grade, but to provide feedback, feedback that would allow the students to tackle the next assignment in an improved state of readiness.I don’t remember quite when this (in hindsight, rather obvious) epiphany kicked in, but it instantly made responding to student writing much more complicated.The student usually knows that one of these is right and one is wrong, but has chosen not to address this problem.In this case, my feedback needs to be different, and I remind them of the value and importance of polish and proofreading, how when we aren’t sure of something, we are obligated to look it up, rather than wing it.This degree of concentration and depth of engagement is not always possible, however, in which case my feedback becomes so-so, or the time it takes me to render that feedback stretches like taffy.I personally find it difficult to maintain the appropriate concentration for 60 essays graded over three or four days.Are they not reading the source material carefully? The same error committed by two different students may require a different response.Are they settling for conveying the “gist” when the “gist” won’t do? A student who is highly proficient at writing, but makes a “careless” error (like subject/verb agreement), may need a (loving), kick in the butt like “You didn’t read this out loud to yourself, did you?I can’t imagine doing it for 120 or 180 students per semester as many composition instructors are asked to do.That workload is simply unreasonable if we value writing instruction.