Today I was going through our filing cabinet and, amongst all the paperwork, I found a story I submitted during my time at University. I was given a Credit ++ and the tutor wrote two or three blandly positive comments next to the grade. At the time, I assume I accepted this the way you do when you’re young. “The tutor is more powerful and knowledgeable than me and therefore the mark must be correct and fair.”
But now, looking back, I find this quite irritating. I was there to learn. What is the point of a mark with so little information to back it up? Creative Writing is subjective. I understand that. But to my mind, this is all the more reason for a list of reasons to be essential when you put a grade on a piece of work because the rules by which you might self-grade are missing.
My writing was not trite or grammatically poor. My spelling was correct. There was a plot, dialogue and character build-up. There was a plan for expansion. There was imagery and even some humour. So what was missing? I assume I was graded in comparison to others in the class. So what did they have that I didn’t?
If only we could have the knowledge and the confidence to ask these questions of our teachers when we are young. The voiceless are so dependent on the empathy, compassion and wisdom of their teachers. If you are lucky, you find amazing teachers who truly see your strengths and help you with your weaknesses. But I am sure teaching, like most jobs, must become a list of chores to be got through. You do what you must do to get paid and keep your position. No doubt my tutor had writing of his/her own to work on and marking a flotilla of fledgling narratives was an annoying subplot in his/her life.
And so, as one of the subplot victims, I rated my writing as average and failed to ask how to make it better. What a wasted opportunity!