When asked what recommendations they would give teachers to improve feedback…students claimed to want more, and more useful, responses to their writing. A wide majority — 87% — rated as “important” or “very important” the advice that teachers give more detailed feedback on papers.
— Harvard Study of Undergraduate Writing
That’ll do, Harvard Study of Undergraduate Writing, that’ll do.
I don’t know what you saw in that quote, but all I saw were the words more, more, and more. And while I would love to provide students — Harvard undergraduates included — the feedback they crave, what I don’t love is the towering pile of papers, the endless succession of assignments waiting to be assessed.
In years past, that reality manifested as an actual pile, one that sat on my lap for hours or glowered at me from a nearby shelf. In more recent years, it has taken a virtual form, one that awaits me whenever I open up my Chromebook and start clicking through Classroom.
Too often, the task of providing feedback on papers and other assessments has pushed me to the breaking point as an English teacher. Combined with planning, designing activities and assessments, updating records, and communicating with families, I haven’t had enough hours in the day.
For a stretch of too many years, I was getting 4–5 hours of sleep a night, sometimes passing out with a Chromebook or pile of papers on my lap, waking up before dawn to prepare materials for the coming day. Arriving home, I’d collapse on the couch and sleep through most of the hours my wife and children were awake. Something between their unconditional support and my love of teaching buoyed me through those dark years.
But it’s still a blur, a parade of days beginning and ending in darkness, and vague sense that my life was slipping through my hands.