Blog #5: The Magic of Feedback Letters

Immediately after class today, I sat down at work (the IT help desk in the library) and began reading the feedback letters I had just received in class. Do I still have hours of homework to finish for tomorrow? You bet, but the most important thing to me was reading everyone’s responses to my writing. A few minutes after I began reading, I had to sneakily wipe tears away from my eyes. I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of kindness I felt radiating from those letters. Here are a few of the lines, from multiple people, that hit me the hardest:

“”Thank you for sharing, Timmi.”

Are you okay? I had no idea that you were struggling so bad with all of this. If you ever need anything I’m here just so you know.”

“I’m here if you ever need someone to vent to.”

“it made me want to hug you.”

“You can do this girl, I believe in you.”

Honestly, when I wrote my piece, I wasn’t too concerned with its form. I had been bottling in so many emotions for so long, and I just wanted them to be somewhere else besides my head. I feel like I can’t talk to many people about this, so I was extremely nervous about sharing this piece with the class. I didn’t know if people would think I’m whiny.

I’ve written a whole blog post about the power of these feedback letters, and haven’t even touched the wonderful feedback I received on my actual writing technique. Because of the kindness I felt through all of these feedback letters, I absolutely cannot wait to begin revising. Reading everyone’s support really made me want to improve this piece. It sounds really cheesy, but knowing my peers care about me made a huge difference in my writing experience. Unfortunately, revising will have to wait until hours of Lit of the Bible and Lit Crit homework is finished.

For those of you who wrote me feedback letters, thank you. I appreciate all of the kind words more than you know.

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Elephants in the Classroom

One of this week’s reading is entitled “9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us.” An elephant in an ordinary room is “an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about.”  Every single “elephant” mentioned throughout this article rang with astounding truth. There are too many issues that teachers and administrators are aware of yet won’t make appropriate changes. The two that stood out to me the most were that students almost always forget what they “learn” and grades, not learning is what teachers, parents, and students are focused on.

What students are taught often stays in between their ears only long enough for them to get tested on it. I know this with certainty because whenever I asked my parents for help with homework in high school, they were rarely able to offer any assistance. Even though I am only a sophomore in college, I don’t remember basic science terms or math equations I learned in high school. The only specific aspects I remember about my high school education is the books I read in my English class and some of the projects we did. For students who liked math or science more than English, I’m sure their memories are the exact opposite. I didn’t enjoy these subjects, but I did enough work to get A’s. This brings me to my next point.

In my opinion, caring only about grades is the equivalent to caring only about appearance. The letters A through F are meant to represent a student’s content knowledge, but they mean so much more than that. Most high school students have heard, “Get good grades so you can get into college” at least once in their lives. Grades is how people measure their intelligence and therefore their importance in the world. Low grades tell students that they are not even a little intelligent or important.

This semester, I am enrolled in two classes that don’t give grades until the end of the semester. At first, I was really frustrated by this because I have gotten into the habit of checking my grades regularly. I thought not having any access to my grade might kill me. Fortunately, I’ve had a completely opposite experience, and I’m still standing to tell you about it. I originally assumed not knowing my grade would mean not getting any feedback; however, I was very much mistaken, and not knowing my grades all semester turned out to be a good thing. I became more focused on fulfilling my learning to a standard that satisfied me, not a grading scale.

Although grades may do more damage than good in many cases, they are here to stay. What we as teachers can do, however, is give our students constant, constructive, positive feedback and do our best to instill the mentality that learning matters more than grades do.