After the Evaluation

I love the moment when a student wants to improve an essay after the grade comes in—not for a higher grade or for any other reason than the satisfaction of working on a piece of writing they love.

Twice it happens like this:  a student comes in to talk about changing this or that, improving this paragraph, and adding in this thought even though it doesn’t change the grade. And again, a student comes to the office to work on something while explaining all the negative feedback she received.

“Doesn’t the grade shut you down? Does the negative feedback make you insecure and discouraged at all?” I ask.

“No! Why would it? It’s just information about what to do next to make things better.”

I sit with students, amazed at how much more mature they seem than I was at their same age, back when achievement and high grades meant everything. I sit with a writer who lets no grade disorient or destabilize her (either good or bad). It’s because she loves what she wrote and want to make it even better. The grade just indicates, for these writers, places of possible improvement, more creativity, and new directions.

The grade shuts nothing down; it opens everything up.


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