SWCBloggers: Challange #3
If you raised your children to believe in Sana Clause, you'll understand the parallels. As with Santa, a giant conspiracy protects them from the truth. We come up with elaborate explanations to explain the unexplainable and change the subject when they get too close to the truth. We might titter to each other about their innocence or, if you prefer, gullibility, but we all agree to keep these encounters between each other. We can’t stand the idea that they will stop believing.
Of course, I'm taking about how much English instructors dislike reading their students' papers. We construct an elaborate ruse to convince our students that we hungrily wait for their offerings and delight in reading and commenting on their work. In actuality, student papers often seem to me to be the damning proof of my failures. As I read through the stack, I am reminded, often again and again, of what I inadequately taught. None-the-less, or perhaps because I dislike it so much, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to respond to student work. I spend minutes tinkering over a question that I hope will lead them to a clearer line of thinking. I agonize over whether a problem is dire and needs to be underscored or would be better left alone.
For all these reasons, this week’s horror story comes from a student commenting on my commenting. Rough drafts had been copiously scrutinized and returned. Privately, I had congratulated myself numerous times on a new rubric I had devised and delivered with the drafts. Then, as if my own child was confronting me about Santa’s existence, one of my best students met with me. He explained that my comments on his paper only confused him, but after visiting the writing center, he finally felt he had clear instructions on how to proceed with certain parts of his papers. He said that my comments “were you know kinda vague” but he understood I had many papers to grade and probably did not always take enough time.
As when my oldest confronted me about Santa, I felt humbled, human, and very exposed. We both now knew that my pen lacked the magical qualities necessary to transform his writing from one thing to another.