Friday, February 25, 2011


I'm part of a voluntary group through our Be a Better Whatever office on campus for using writing in our classes. The idea is that we discuss stuff and do some reading, not necessarily in that order. And then we'll become better at using writing in our classes.

Today we were talking about writing assignments, and the facilitating faculty member sent out a note to remind us, and as a ps suggested that if we wanted to workshop an assignment, we should bring it.

So I did.

I make my students do peer editing, and it's something I really believe in, but putting my assignment out there was humbling. It's an assignment I used last year with poorish results, so I know there are problems with it. But, deep down, I'd like to hear that I'm just the most wonderful, brilliant teacher who comes up with the best ever writing assignments. Trust me: that didn't happen.

And I knew it wouldn't.

What happened was that everyone said they wouldn't be able to do the assignment.

Inside, I cringed, as you'd imagine. Outside, I picked up my pencil and started taking notes. I filled the paper with revision suggestions. And then I turned it over and filled the other side with more revision suggestions. And then we were done, so I thanked everyone for their help.

Then I went back to my office and started from a blank word processing page. I didn't cut and paste a word, but reworked the assignment totally. And, you know what? It's a whole lot better assignment now. It really is.

I still have some reworking to do, and then I'll run it by the facilitator for additional feedback.

And then I need to take it to the class and put the new assignment information in place of the old. And that means coming clean about working on revising my assignment and needing to make it better. I should probably ask them for further feedback.

And that will also be humbling. It's one thing to feel vulnerable in front of colleagues from across campus, but it's harder to feel vulnerable in front of students.

Of course, our students are that vulnerable all the time. It's okay to be that vulnerable, but it is hard. It's also important to remember how hard it is.


  1. go, you! since one of the things you want your students to learn is that work can be improved, this is a good example, and from an angle they probably do not anticipate.

  2. I really admire this. My instinct might have been to take an assignment that went over well and present that to the workshop group. But this was much better. Yes, it made you more vulnerable, but in the end, it's going to have an awesome benefit to you and your students (present and future). Bravo, Bardiac! Perhaps we should rename you Bardiac the Brave! Go you!

  3. In my experience, students appreciate when you change things to be more responsive to their needs. You just need to frame it that way.