Feedback, Labels, and Partnership

In the past few years, I’ve both consciously and subconsciously begun to think of my elders more as unique people, rather than just the embodiment of whatever role they play in my life. My parents are not just parents; they are people with interests, flaws, and baggage. And so are my teachers. Over the years, I have noticed more and more of my teachers having different senses of humor, pet peeves, interests, and just general feelings. In fact, a lot of these end up being relatable. That shouldn’t be as surprising to me as it has been. Although my own mindset has played a big role in preventing me from getting to know my teachers better, I think that teachers are much more guarded and reluctant to show their personalities to younger students. The reason I am bringing this up is because I think understanding our teachers as people is another hugely important factor in establishing a healthy, beneficial academic partnership with them, and I really related to something Dr. Beth said to us in class.When I first receive feedback from teachers and professors on my writing, it is so difficult for me to not take it personal. I know it’s silly, I know they’re only helping me, and the majority of the time I know their feedback is totally accurate, but it’s just so hard to reassure myself of that sometimes. When I read Dr. Beth’s comments on my essay I just felt a wave of negativity rush over me. I didn’t even know what I was feeling until, ironically, Dr. Beth talked in class about things she felt when other people critique her writing. Embarrassment, shame, confusion, and anger were just a few she mentioned that I had felt, too. She said she didn’t want to revise things, sometimes she didn’t think she even could, so she just pushed it out of her thoughts and ignored it. That’s exactly how I felt and exactly what I was doing. I think it was similar to what we read about in the article written by Ian Chipman, The Power of Realistic Expectations. When students are given a negative title or status it can affect their performance substantially, usually due to the shame that they feel comes with the label. I think that’s what was happening to me. I decided that I was an underachiever and had failed, and I stamped the label Bad Writer across my face. But that’s just not true! The students in the article improved their view of themselves by removing their labels, and I improved my view of myself when I realized that the person who I thought had been labelling me was really just helping and relating to me. Hearing Dr. Beth describe feelings that were so similar to mine made me look at the feedback she’d given me differently. She has been in my place so her intention is not to judge, attack, confuse, or shame me. It is honestly just to help me. I knew that before and I just needed to convince myself of it, but it didn’t hit me until she convinced me that she knew exactly what it was like to be in our position. Being able to relate to our teachers makes it easier to establish a partnership with them because it eliminates a lot of the fear that comes with being vulnerable in a classroom. Sharing ideas subjects us students to judgement and disagreement, which can be really scary. Writing is so personal and comes from so deep inside, and being honest in my writing is really intimidating. So when submitting assignments, it’s so beneficial to feel like my teachers know how scary it can be and have felt the same way before. If we (students and teachers) all feel the same way, we aren’t going to attack each other in the way that we’re all scared of. We’re just trying to survive and thrive and become better writers.

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