09 April 2005

Seeing Red

Earlier in the school year, I saw a similar story to this one, where teachers were asked to mark papers using a colour other than red. Parents were complaining that the self-esteem of their children was being damaged because of papers marked in red. It's apparently too stressful for a student to see even positive comments written with a red pen.

Why is this even an issue, I wonder. Are there already generations of us who've been traumatized by red marks on our homework...and only now are adults shaking their fists at this convention? Mind you, I always picture these same parents after little Johnny grows into adulthood. I see them storming into the office of Johnny's boss at some big company and decrying some slur against Johnny's self-esteem at yesterday's sales meeting. I imagine them writing notes to Johnny's creditors asking that he be excused from payments and be allowed some time for make-up work (without penalty, of course).

What I hope for is that these parents will "get real" at some point. When a teacher gives a student feedback, it is not full of personal comments. (As much as I might like to make those comments from time to time, I don't.) Comments on papers are in the form of constructive criticism: here's what went well, here's how to improve the things that didn't work. They are not slurs against a kid and/or their self-esteem. It is a judgement of the work, not the student. Shouldn't we be focused on improving that?

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