Think About and Emulate

Yesterday I collected essays from my honors rhetoric class.  Take a look at these bad boys.

I remember a terrific line uttered by a student when he submitted a paper a few years ago.  As he passed it up the row, he gestured toward the paper, looked at me, and then stated, "It's your problem now."

How apt.  At this point, these essays are out of the students' hands, figuratively and literally.  The responsibility now falls on me to evaluate them.  Admittedly, I warily eyeball them for a while, daunted by the prospect of tackling the stack.  Eventually I find my rhythm.

Some essays will be graded during marathon stretches that last late into the evening after the kids are asleep; others will be picked off individually in twenty-some-minute increments throughout the day, perhaps read from the lobby of the dance studio while my oldest daughter practices or in the car while I wait to pick up my youngest from preschool. 

One commonality exists in how I approach the task, though.  It stems from a piece of advice I read about evaluating writing: think about the most useful feedback you ever received, and emulate it.

What kind of feedback has advanced my own writing?  How can I emulate this for my students through the comments I supply?

Today as I'm facing the stack, it's good to remember that these essays aren't problems sitting in front of me, after all.

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  1. I couldn't help but read this and think, oh, my Lord, am I ever thankful I am no longer in school. Most of my post secondary education consisted of essays and research papers. I did wonderfully but I agonized over each and every one of them as I wrote them. Horrid, horrid, things.

    Your students sound fortunate to have an instructor who cares and looks at their work in such a positive manner.

    Wishing you a lovely day.

  2. I always felt immense freedom when I finally submitted a paper for the same reason: it was no longer mine to work on. (Now I feel the same way when I finish the stack and return them to my students. Done! Victory!)


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