Being a writer, I have always valued feedback. Feedback helps me become a better writer and brings me closer to my dream of one day being a published author. Sadly, it took me several years to accept negative feedback. At some point, that changed, now I use it to fuel the writer’s fire within me.
Unfortunately, just like me, so many young writers are used to receiving negative feedback on papers. I was pleased to have the opportunity to interview a former student who had unfortunate experiences with feedback in his educational career. It impacted him so much that he did not want to continue his education after high school. He was tired of being let down by his teachers, who he felt did not allow him the chance to find his voice in his writing.
As you can see, writing negative comments did not help Vincent when it came to writing papers. He was let down and abandoned by those who were supposed to guide him. Instead of receiving any source of reinsurance by his teachers, he felt defeated.
On the other hand, enforcing more positive comments can only benefit a student and provide them the confidence they need to advance their writing. I was also given a chance to interview a current high school student who was encouraged by his teachers to write outside of his comfort zone.
We can see James feels more confident as a writer. Vincent, on the other hand, did not because of the type of feedback he received from his teachers. I feel as if educators or those who teach in a writing-styled classroom can utilize a few of these tips.
My Personal Relationship with the Red Pen
It was not until sixth grade that I gave up all hope on writing. As I mentioned in my first blog, “Why Do You Write?” I told about the constant struggle I had with reading and writing at a young age and the scar that it left. However, I found my saving grace in a middle school teacher when she encouraged me to pushed myself further as a writer.
I was never really taught the “proper” way to write. All I know is when writing an essay; there is an introduction paragraph with the thesis being one of the last two sentences, three body paragraphs about the given topic, and a conclusion paragraph wrapping it all together for the final sign off. That much I understood, it was the grammar. I never comprehended grammar; it never “clicked” for me. Before I met my saving grace, my entire paper turned into the Red Sea.
The feedback I was receiving never really helped me. My teachers never sat down with me to explain their reasoning behind their corrections, and they expected me to make the corrections and to understand why I was wrong. But I never did. The comments only decreased my self-esteem as a writer more. I felt embarrassed, dumb, and unteachable. I always asked for help, but I would receive the typical response, “figure it out yourself.”
Finally, seventh grade rolled around when I had the best Language Arts teacher ever! She cared about her students, she wanted us to succeed, and she pushed us past our boundaries as a writer and reader. After every paper (in this case essay), we would have little one-on-one conferences about our work and what needed to be improved or how we could enhance a particular area. This pushed me, and I never worked too hard towards something before in my life.
Fast-forwarding 12 years, I’m currently working on my Masters in Writing Studies and striving to become a writing professor and a published author. Becoming a professor has always been a dream of mine. I enjoy writing so much that I feel that I need to share my passion for the younger generations to come and possibly give that student who doubts themselves the reinsurance that their writing is enough and to keep pushing forward.
Turn Negative Comments into Positive Ones
- “Great introduction, but next time focus more on…”
- “Perfect use of vocabulary, but try to rephrase this sentence.”
- “I truly enjoyed your summary/example/adaptation of the text/quote, but try to find another source/textual support to better help your argument.”
- “Your overall paper is fantastic, but why don’t you meet me after class to go over formatting/MLA citations/paraphrasing/etc.”
For further information about giving your students feedback, please refer to a past presentation a colleague (Nives Migliaccio) and I worked on together.
Also, here are the two articles mentioned in the above presentation (1 & 2) and an additional article on the subject matter.
- Writing Comments on Students Paper by James Bean
- Ranking, Evaluating, and Liking: Sorting Out Three Forms of Judgement by Peter Elbow
- Responding to Student Writing by Nancy Sommers