Thursday, December 09, 2004

Today began about 4 am, reading those last papers before grades go in, swearing to myself to not accept late papers again! By 8:30, I was in a room with about 30 English teachers, ready to read holistic finals, wondering how the WR121 papers would go. We had a new system for tracking how we evaluated the papers; immediate resistance! How could we possibly reduce how we evaluate student writing to a rubric? Ha! Accusations flew through the air -- we could limit the argument to pronouns. Talk of brownshirts imposing rules polarized the discussion.

This group of teachers cares about learning and helping students and all the good stuff, but we definitely come at it from different angles. One camp forgives the most egregious punctuation errors IF the essay is thoughtful -- or even attempts thoughtfulness, even if that effort challenges the essay prompt, or wanders. Another camp values logical order and correctness (yes, even neat handwriting) over creativity. We can't tell if the essays are tossed off or agonized over. All we have is the written word, not word processed, in front of us. Decoding. Deconstructing. Sometimes desperate.

Today the prompt was if you could "put time in a bottle," what memory would you want to save. I read so many stories: A heroin addict spends his first night in jail and then on release, a quick fix two blocks from the police station. A teen cradles the head of his dying friend following a horrific accident, while the driver of the car takes off. A young man remembers his proposal of marriage; three years later, he relishes the moment his Sarah said yes. Another recalls winning a wrestling match while he struggled with cracked ribs. Young people confronting the end of innocence -- a dying grandmother, a divorce, the lament of always being picked last. But bagels, hot coffee, and chocolate aside, the papers were read, grades were totalled, and squinty-eyed professors went home to an evening of quiet.

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