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It Seems To Me: An open letter to my students

Posted: Friday, Oct 25th, 2013

The other day you asked me, “Why did you flunk me?” Thank you for asking. Your question made me stop and think, and that’s a good thing. When I meet with my colleagues, we often talk about “teaching with intent.” In order to accomplish this, we have to stop and think about what we want to accomplish in the classroom and evaluate our success in the classroom.

In other words, we stop and think about what we are doing and ask ourselves if we can do better. So your question is deeply appreciated.

As I try to answer it, please keep in mind that I’m a writing teacher, and I stress in class the importance of clearly understanding what you want to say, and then saying it as effectively as possible. So, when I make the following suggestions, it is not with the intent of telling you “what to think,” but rather I want to help you learn “how to think” more clearly.

So, let’s look at your question. The quick and simple answer is, I didn’t flunk you. I provided you with the tools that you needed to be successful in the class, gave you instructions on how to use those tools as well as opportunities to become more skillful with them, and offered my support and guidance along the way.

And then I observed your performance and reported on what I observed.

So I really didn’t flunk you. You accomplished that yourself.

Perhaps what you really want to know is why you failed the class. Here again, I could easily answer your question by going through the syllabus with you and reminding you what your grades were based on. More than half of your grade was based on the papers you wrote and the presentation you did in class. About a quarter of your grade was based on your class participation, and the rest of your grade was based on the activities we did in class.

For the complete article see the 10-25-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 10-25-2013 paper.

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