Thursday, December 03, 2015

Talking After Returning Papers

Note: I don't know what to day about yet another day of multiple mass shootings.  I don't think saying anything much matters.  Like pretty much everyone I know, I'm tired of people saying that we need to stop gun violence without actually doing anything to stop gun violence, violence against black men, violence against black women, violence against women of all races, violence by white men, yeah, gun violence in so many forms, overlapping, but all too often resonating with the same explanations.


I handed back papers in my intro to lit course the other day, and there were a couple of dissappointed students, several of whom have come to office hours to talk to me.

They had a lot in common.  We went over the papers together, and in each case, they could see where their paper had problems.  In each case, I basically said something along the lines of them being smart and capable, and what they should learn for the future from this paper, how they can do better on the final, how they'd done better on other written work, how this is a stressful time.

And in each case, I think they really needed to hear those things, especially that I think they're smart and capable.  I think their response was only partly about the grade, but more about feeling disappointed in themselves and not wanting me to think they're stupid or lazy or whatever. 

I don't think they're stupid or lazy or whatever.  I think they wrote a poor paper, but that has no reflection, really, on whether they're smart or hard-working or not.  I've certainly written poor papers or done poorly on exams, and it usually meant that I didn't study or work quite hard enough on that thing.  But the poor paper or exam wasn't me as a human being, and I eventually learned to work a whole lot harder on the things that are important to me.  And I'm certain they'll learn and do better in the future.

And, finally, it's okay for 18 year olds to need a little reassurance. 

(That said, some of the papers were really good, too.)

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