It’s summer and I am cleaning out my office; organizing files, restocking the paper clips and staples, filling the recycling bin. Nostalgically looking through a folder of handouts for a writers’ workshop I conducted many years ago, I laser focused on the words of one page in particular. It outlined the grading criteria for my writing classes – how to evaluate the product and, always more importantly for me, how to evaluate the process of writing.
I could not take my focus from the process side. For my students, 40% of their grade each term was for process. At the beginning of the year I spent considerable time explaining and modeling what I meant under this heading. The students were evaluated on:
- how well they planned
- their attempts at revision
- whether they were willing to take some risks
- their willingness to participate in conferences
- the sharing of their own writing
- their inclination to request help when they needed it
- evidence and care of their editing
- their confidence in choosing topics
- how well they met deadlines
- wise use of their time during workshop
- how appropriately they accepted feedback
- their care in following directions
In the wake of all the challenges our society is facing, in the midst of the fear, anger, anxiety, uncertainty of our time, these processes of being a writer seem to ring true to me as processes of being a person. How willing am I to engage in conversation? How inclined am I to ask for help when I need it? Can I accept feedback about my decisions, actions? Am I putting real effort into planning, revising and sharing my life?
Forty percent of my students’ grades was for the pieces of writing they produced. I am so glad that I committed 40% to the process of being a writer. We built a community of writers. It seems to me we need to build a community of persons.
The other 20%? Homework. I have read many books on the evils and benefits of homework. There is no even playing field when kids leave our classrooms. Should homework count at all? Will kids who do no homework miss out on the discipline and practice it provides? Do kids who do it effortlessly need it? I am still undecided. What I do feel is that it should never count more than 20%.