Sunday, September 29, 2013

To comment or not to comment...

                The only time (that readily comes to mind)I had to deal with an emotional writer was in an undergrad Shakespeare class. We were doing peer editing and I switched papers with a girl that wrote about Doll Tearsheet from Henry IV. It was a tirade against patriarchal society forcing women into prostitution (saying that even housewives were essentially prostitutes) that barely connected to the actual material with minimal outside resources. It was also a five page paper that contained about as many paragraphs. I was in a panic trying to figure out how to make comments without setting off a bomb. I stuck purely with structure stuff in my written notes to her, pointing to places that could become separate paragraphs and sentences that ran together. When we discussed it, she asked about content and how well her argument stuck together. I will admit to my shame that I softballed it and only mentioned that it could be strengthened with some more textual support. She was very appreciative for the comments, returned my paper with comments and that was that.
                It was hard for me to say “You didn’t have a thesis and ranted for five pages.” She wrote an emotional response paper that really did not fit the assignment. I wonder how the professor went about grading that one, which makes me wonder how I will go about those papers in the future. It is hard to know someone else’s circumstances, so there is a certain amount of soft treading when it comes to a paper like that. On the other hand, making sure the assignment is fulfilled is its whole point. I did her a disservice by not trying to help her with the assignment because I was worried about the response to any constructive criticism.
                I will try to keep this event in mind as I go on in this job. I have yet to deal with this in the writing center, but I know it will happen. I hope I will have more courage to make the comments necessary to help the writer get the best grade possible. That is, after all, the point of academic writing in this setting. A paper for 1010 is not meant to change the world or reveal universal hidden truths. It is about making sure the student can follow assignment instructions and put together a coherent paper that demonstrates that they have paid attention and thought about the material. If it happens to be a life altering work of epic proportions, then that’s fantastic! In reality, the best I hope for is a solid paper that gives everything that was asked for.

Gary Lindeburg- blog 5


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