I’ve been in the throes of grading the fall semester’s first round of ENG 101 essays the last two weeks, and I did something I’ve never done before. I returned several essays to their authors, requesting that they completely rewrite their essays before I grade them. I think my emails said something to the effect of, “Your essay is in such poor condition that I am not comfortable giving it a grade.”
I’m wrestling with the action that I’ve taken, and I thought that I would reflect upon it here just in case any of you readers have any insights.
First, I know that I made the right decision for these papers and their authors. I’m not doubting that. Now, I haven’t graded the rewritten essays yet, so who knows if my action even made a difference. But I know that I did the right thing.
Second, I feel bad about my “criteria” for returning these essays. It’s not that they were F papers; I mean, they were F papers, but there were plenty of essays I failed and did not ask the authors to rewrite. My criteria was two-fold: 1) After reading it, I had no idea where to even begin adding comments because the essay was all over everywhere. 2) The essay made me want to do anything but grade the paper. I mean, I’d rather clean toilets, scrub showers, and wash a dozen dogs than grade this paper.
Third, I guess my rationale for the action I took was this: These essays were going to receive low F’s, and I think I thought that the students would benefit more from the opportunity to rewrite the essays rather than being demoralized with such low grades. And I just didn’t want to grade them; I wasn’t being lazy, but grading such poor essays is demoralizing to the teacher, too!
It looks like at least some of the students are taking advantage of the opportunity I’ve given them. We’ve exchanged several emails and phone calls, and they have expressed gratitude for the chance to turn in better papers. I certainly do not plan to make a habit of this, and know that these essays will face a 15% deduction because they are considered late, but I feel better as an educator giving students second chances. Enough of my teachers did that for me, and every time it encouraged me and motivated me to be a better student, and I’m hoping for the same result for my students.
Thoughts? What would you have done with really bad essays you couldn’t stand to grade?
I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework. — Lily Tomlin as “Edith Ann”