We talk a lot about us, as teachers, failing. But the “Teaching for Joy and Justice” article got me thinking about our future students failing. There’s no reason to beat around the bush. It will happen; some of our students will fail.
A quote from that article was “Instead of telling him how beautiful his writing was, instead of finding what worked in his piece, I found every single thing that was wrong.” Too many of us have had teachers that line up our writing in the crosshairs of their weapon: the red pen. Instead of failing and focusing on the negative, we have the opportunity to praise our students for the better parts of their paper. They fail because we tell them they’re failing. We have the power to change that and use our red pen for good, not evil.
By using our pen for evil, we create dependency. We create students like Tom in the article by Penny Kittle; students that will hand us their paper and say “I want you to tell me what you think! You’re the teacher!” By correcting the wrongs and not highlighting the “rights”, we create students who rely on our every word or mark of pen. Teachers are powerful creatures; we can promote independence by praising our students and guiding, not doing/correcting.
Earlier in that same article, Kittle says “we write to be heard”. Students don’t want to be torn down because they missed a comma; they want to be uplifted for their creativity, big or small. I really related to this section of Kittle’s article. I definitely write to be heard. I share my blogs with my fiancé, Tyler, and make him read it. It’s even gotten to the point where I want to share my journal entries on my blog or with Tyler so someone else can hear what I have to write about. Students will not continue to write if we don’t listen to what they are writing about because we are so high and mighty with our little red pen, pointing out their flaws.