Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Putting Canned Comments Back on the Shelf

I remember the excitement I felt as a middle schooler when my first report card arrived in the mail.  This was my first real report card--no more of the elementary system, with its narrow range of S+, S and S-!  I distinctly recall a feeling of pride washing over me when I read the typed comment at the bottom: "A pleasure to have in class."
It wasn't until junior high, when I saw that not one or two but three teachers left that exact same comment--a pleasure to have in class--that I suspected something was wrong.  By high school, I had become fully aware of canned comments.  One time, a few friends and I even made a tongue-in-cheek list of canned comments that we suspected were in the system, but rarely used.  At any rate, the feeling of pride was gone.  Seeing a pleasure to have in class had become meaningless to me at best, and insulting at worst.  "If I'm really such a pleasure to have in class, why not tell me in your own words?" I wondered.  "Or, even tell me what I can improve on... Just give me something REAL."

When I became a teacher and was confronted with the waking nightmare that is the first year of teaching, I came to sympathize with my own teachers.  I was just barely getting my grades in on time--who could sit and write personalized comments for each student?!

This year, I felt up to the challenge.  I know that some of my students value the final letter grade above all else and that likely, some of the comments I wrote on essays and presentation rubrics throughout the year have gone unread.  A report card is different--the parents see the report card, and the comments are hard to miss.

I could have gotten my grades in two days early, but I was committed to the task--I spent roughly two hours over the past couple of days writing personalized comments to my students.  I wanted to affirm specifically and challenge specifically, and most of all, I wanted the students to see that I had taken the time to write something meaningful to them.

Will some of my students have preferred that I just write a pleasure to have in class?  Possibly.  Do I feel that the two hours I spent writing comments were worth it anyway?  Definitely.

1 comment:

  1. you are blessing your students and their parents with that extra effort in making personalized comments a priority. It is a gift and it will be noticed!