June 2, 2007

Camped Out on the Living Room Floor

Oh! It sounds like a slumber party, huh? Nope. I have three boxes of projects to assess. I've made it through one, and so I thought I'd take a few minutes to goof off. Or report my progress or whatever.

I had my students turn in their research papers a few weeks before the whole project was completed because I know they struggle with the documentation. Now, after reading many research papers, I don't understand why they didn't take my advice to fix a few things. You know, a few things like citing their sources?

In general, I always wonder why students don't take advice when I give it? Of course, it's their writing. They can do whatever they like, but I'm a trained professional. I give them good advice. Individualized. And hey! I'm also the one doing the assessment and giving the grade.

When I collect rough drafts I tell the students it is to help them. I tell them that they should turn in their very best work--treat it as if it were the final draft. If they turn in the very best, I can give them my best feedback on the aspects that they truly need to develop. When I explain this concept to them, I use examples of what I might focus on depending on what I get, and they all nod their heads enthusiastically. You know, deep down, they know what they need to improve their writing. They often can't figure out how.

Now there are some students who choose not to get my feedback by not turning in rough drafts. A handful of them are actually some of best writers, so they usually get away with it. I do give my best writers constructive feedback, too. It's usually along the lines of, "This is exactly what is required (maybe even above), but if you'd like to work on ______, then it can be even better." I don't mind if those students don't take my feedback, but most of them want to be better, so they try out my suggestions.

Of course, the top writer who chooses not to take my feedback is the pleasant anomaly. The rest of them have problems that need to be resolved. Screw this happy-shiny educational jargon. Do my students really care about becoming better writers--better communicators?

I should just say, "Hey kid! Your writing sucks. You need to fix these errors because if you don't, you're going to fail this paper. I don't need the "rubric" to see that. You think you want to go to college? I don't care if you're only in middle school. Trust me. You're on the wrong road with writing like this. At the rate you're going, you won't need to good writing skills in your career. Want some fries with that?"

Tough love can be so beautiful sometimes! Does it really damage the poor students? Sigh.

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