A Lesson in Reflection

It has occurred to me that a number of people in this forum agree on the same thing: that Kate’s essay was unfairly graded. She was following her instructor’s instructions to a T but still received a poor grade along with some rude comments. Thus, we have a problem. Do teachers want essays, or facsimiles? I have mentioned before the importance of a student writing against the standard norms. I have also voiced my opposition to the outline, a practice which I feel can stifle rather than assist. I have also written at length about the flaws of the 5 paragraph essay model. These concepts look good on paper, but they have rarely produced anything above mediocre. Good intentions are sometimes behind the most heinous of acts. The poor grade Kate received from her incompetent teacher is far from heinous, but it is still a perfect example of the biggest flaw in primary school writing practices: form and function trumping content. What the teacher should have realized is that their “guidelines”, or rather¬†rules, were counter-intuitive to the student and the assignment. Instead of criticizing the student, the teacher should have criticized themselves. If the student follows your rules perfectly, and those rules cause a substantial decrease in quality, then it is on you to reevaluate both your assignment and yourself. The teacher should ponder why the student failed to meet their expectations while also meeting them. Thus the counter-intuition. You cannot have a student both meet and fall short of guidelines. But this still raises a problem: how can an instructor fix this problem? I do not have an answer to this problem that is universal; I only have my answer, and that answer is to completely abolish the assignment and create a new one. In my classroom, I would give students my¬†preferences for certain aspects of the paper (format, citations etc.), but otherwise they would have complete control over the assignment. I do not want a facsimile. I want something completely unique and distinguishable. Just as my own writing has a “Pantaleonian” feel to it, I want my students to inject some of their personality into their writings as well.