original context

A student who is learning to write turns in their work. They recieve their paper back with corrections and a grade. They are usually still confused. Instead, I think that the teacher should rewrite the entire paper showing the correct way it should be done. This doesn’t have to be done for every paper, but if it were done for a few, the students could relate and understand better since it becomes more personal.

Do you have any idea how much teacher effort this would require, even for a few papers? Have you ever actually had to edit someone else’s writing? A teacher’s life is hard enough already. Lesson plans and grading take a lot more effort than most people think, and when teachers are expected to spend time acting as surrogates for absent or uninvolved parents as well it’s amazing that any teacher ever even has time for a movie. I think the goal of providing better feedback could be far better served by teachers doing two things more aggressively:

  • Keeping track of the errors that many students seem to be making, and specifically addressing those errors for the benefit of the whole class after the papers have been turned in.
  • Encouraging students who still have questions to visit during the teacher’s office hours for further explanation (yes, I believe teachers at all levels should have regular free-form office hours).

Another thing that I would do if I were a teacher – and I’m sure everyone’s glad I’m not – would be to enlist more help. For example, while many parents are truly uninvolved in their children’s education, many others would love to help more but aren’t very good at it. Quarterly parent-teacher meetings don’t cut it. What I’d do is send frequent notes to parents identifying particular areas where the student seems to need more help, and perhaps pointing them to resources that they could use.

In a similar vein, why not enlist the help of the brighter students? Why not offer the more advanced students credit toward their own grades – or perhaps the chance to skip an assignment – for helping others? This doesn’t just help the struggling student. It helps the advanced students learn teaching skills, it keeps the class progressing together, and it has great social benefits (e.g. as an antidote to stratification) as well. I’ve never understood why most schools aren’t more directly involved in helping students helping each other. Every child psychologist knows that children learn as much from their peers as from authority figures; why not make use of that, instead of resisting it?