Getting into the zone
So, you’ve got a stack of writing assignments on your desk. You have a quick glance at the correction code you use with your students. “Gr” for grammar errors, “P” for punctuation, “V” for vocabulary, “R” for register, etc. The pressure’s on now. The sooner you get these back to your students the better. They’re anxious to see their grade and you want them to make corrections based on the code and notes you make as soon as possible. You have a quick glance at the clock and estimate that if you spend X number of minutes per assignment you might even be able to get in some lunch before your next class. So with a steaming cup of coffee at your side, and red pen in hand you dive in. You’re in full-on correction mode.
A familiar scene. We’ve all been there. And when we finish up and hand them back to our students we’re likely to feel some real professional pride at our ability to be so efficient at our job (I got them all corrected in how long?). Oftentimes though, for me at least, this is coupled by a nagging doubt that maybe I could have done just a little a bit better.
Cop or Coach?
Did my intentions to give meaningful, personal feedback take a back seat to my robo-corrector mentality as I plowed through assignment after assignment? After all, the power of the red pen does tend to bring out the authoritarian in us, transforming us from the friendly coach we like to think of ourselves as into the grammar cop pulling over our students at the slightest infraction: “Were you aware that you are using a register unacceptable for this genre? May I see your certification to operate at this level please? Put your pencil down and back away from the desk slowly.”