All my teachers always told me I was a fabulous writer. I had a definite style, a flair, a way of sounding as if I am talking to you. I believed them. They were my teachers, they were teaching me, and if they approved of me, why should I not approve of myself. While my fellow grade mates struggled with an idea, then how to develop the idea, let alone sound intelligent while doing so, I coasted proudly through every writing assignment. My teacher’s had only praise, the only critique was that I did not write more, my prose was that enchanting.
When I got to college, I was really looking forward to Comp 1. Besides, for an easy A, I would enjoy it thoroughly. I mean, look at my transcripts, who would expect otherwise? I do not recall the first assignment; I recall the first grade, a C. To say devastated, to say mortified, to say mad, would not begin to cover it. At first my rage was aimed at my professor, did she not get my writing, my style, my brilliance Is she intimidated by my command of the English language that she feels the need to lower my grade and put me in my place? Then I got to reading her corrections; I made a million and half convention and style errors, and that number is being kind to me.
I started really listening, and really working in that class. I listened to my professor, and for the first time, REALLY learned grammar and was held accountable for it. It was the first time I was honestly critiqued and held accountable for my never-ending sentences, liberal use of commas, complete disregard of tenses and excessive use of the passive voice. Now I was mad at my previous teachers. One, why did they have me believe I was more than I was, yes, I had the potential, but I was not fit for the pedestal they put me on. Two, constructive criticism, development of a skill, work, is essential in mastering anything, why did my teacher’s not comment on my many errors, and why did they never really teach the rules in context?
School is supposed to prepare students for the real world, give them tools for success. Tools are not just content knowledge, but knowledge of yourself and your capabilities. My teacher’s did me a disservice. They probably had good intentions, to build my self-esteem and the like, and there is merit in that. However, there also needs to be honesty and truth, because I found out the truth and so will all other students, and where will that beautiful self-esteem go then?
It was a frustrating experience that first semester in college. I finished the course with a B, which is fair. My conventions and could still use a little help, but I am working on it. I did however take away an invaluable lesson that I use in my classroom all the time. Firstly, I give constructive criticism, yes, I compliment and praise too, but I let my students know where they can improve, to make themselves even better. I do not exclude the top students, if anything I address them more. Secondly, I do not excessively praise or give empty compliments just to pump a student up. I am very honest with my students, I will address their potential and let them know where they could be, but never give them the false impression that they are there already, and their work is done. Moreover, my students know this. They take praise from me seriously and with pride, and critiques as aspirations. When my students leave my classroom they know what they can do and where they can improve, which gives them focus and direction. I am doing for them, what I wish my teachers did for me.