10.8 Response

In analyzing an example of a student paper where a teacher has made both interlinear comments and marginal comments, Nancy Sommers writes:
In commenting on this draft, the teacher has shown the student how to edit the sentences, but then commands the student to expand the paragraph in order to make it more interesting to a reader. The interlinear comments and the marginal comments represent two separate tasks for this student; the interlinear comments encourage the student to see the text as a fixed piece, frozen in time, that just needs some editing. The marginal comments, however, suggest that the meaning of the text is not fixed, but rather that the student still needs to develop the meaning by doing some more research.
Reading this passage was a sort of “ah ha!” moment for me, although, not, at first, as a teacher. Rather, this passage brought greater understanding to an experience I’d sometimes had as a student in early undergraduate creative writing courses. I recall trying to rewrite a short story and feeling paralyzed because I was unsure whether to start by addressing the comments on my individual sentences or the suggestions the teacher had made about plot and character. Where was I meant to start first? What was more important? Was I meant to keep the individual sentences that were marked while I attended to the larger issues of revision? In addition, I didn’t want to destroy what parts of my story I knew were working in order to fix what wasn’t, and this made me hesitant to make changes, adding to my sense of paralysis (a student concern Sommers also mentions in “Responding to Student Writing”) . Sommers’ breakdown of the example articulated exactly what my problem was: the teacher was asking that I both edit and develop at the same time. This passage was an important reminder to look back on my own history as a student and to try to avoid some of the mistakes my past teachers made. It may be obvious, but I think sometimes, especially when we’re sitting down to mark papers, we can forget about what bothered us most when we were receiving feedback. These experiences can be a great resource.
Switching to the G&G chapter “Evaluating Student Essays”…One idea that sounds very helpful to me is that of grading seminars. However, as G&G rather lightly note, “they can be difficult to organize.” I feel like the idea of time is often left out of these “how to” articles. While I am, of course, concerned with learning how to be an effective and thoughtful grader, I’d also be interested to hear if anyone wants to share personal tips/tricks for managing time and stress when grading a big stack (or stacks) of papers and balancing other responsibilities.