Saturday, September 09, 2006

It's not a trauma unless you MAKE it a trauma...

In yet another misguided attempt to "protect" our children from the "bad" things in life, teachers are now being urged by parents to avoid red ink when correcting papers, because the red ink is “offensive,” “causes stress to the students” and is “degrading.” Give me a break. I am grateful to all the good teachers I’ve had. I’m grateful to Mr. Novotny from grade school – who used plenty of red ink and somehow we survived. I’m grateful to Mr. Wnek, even though I still don’t like math much. I’m grateful to Sr. Bonaventure during my high school years. Those notations by Sr. Bonaventure on my Spanish papers made the muddy waters of learning a lot clearer. Mrs. Kallan – now a retired judge – put more red on papers than most. But she taught me the craft of writing. She taught me the value of the correct turn of phrase and how to write clearly, organizing my thoughts so that the reader could follow each step of the way. Poor Mrs. Reichenbach had the dubious job of teaching me algebra. I’m not exactly a mathematical genius, but I learned. Sr. Matthias Marie went through our typing exercises like Sherman through Georgia. But thanks to her, I type as easily as I speak. Mr. Ernst at my junior college used red to teach us the finer points of Criminal Justice theories. Mr. Asher – he was another one who used the color of correction frequently. But as a philosophy teacher, he taught us the art of the argument. You may not have liked their methods, but if you were paying attention, you learned. Professor Howe and Professor Miller at my university were – and are – both talented teachers who used their share of ink to make sure that we understood the basics of logic and critical thinking. And there were other instructors in accounting, finance, marketing and business classes. Again, by that time, red ink shouldn’t have raised any red flags that you didn’t know were coming. All students are stressed, no matter where they are on the learning continuum. I have a hard time with the recent spate of protests about the “red ink” controversy. Aren’t parents (and students) being just a tad too sensitive? Believe me, I’ve talked to plenty of teachers. They don’t have time to sit there and think up ways to aggravate you or your kid. Think about it…the red ink oftentimes said, “Good Job” or “Nice Work.” The red ink was a sign that the teacher was paying attention to those hours of homework. Sometimes, a paper that just had a grade on it was disappointing. I wanted the “goodies” on my papers just as much as I needed the corrections. There are so many other things that urgently need fixing in our education system. Funding it adequately springs to mind. And gee, so many schools are “in the red.” But nobody seems bothered by that red ink. It’s only the ink on the students’ papers that appears to bother anyone. Self-esteem is important, but so is learning to take direction and learning to accept criticism. Kids need to learn that very important skill. They need to know that sure, a teacher is tough. But life is tougher. And when you’re on the job and your boss hands you back a memo that is – shall we say – creatively and heavily edited, you should resist the temptation to call your mom to have her complain. If you don’t learn the lessons life hands you early on, there’s a good chance that the next thing of color you’ll see on the job is a pink slip.

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