Kevarri loved dinosaurs. The second grade, student of the month, knew the meat-eaters from the plant-eaters, and the two-legged from the four, but he rarely raised his hand. I subbed in Kevarri’s class last week with Ms. Beltramy, the student teacher. Ms. Beltramy has been teaching Kevarri’s class all school year, and Thursday morning, she corrected dinosaur papers with the children.
Ms. Beltramy marked every error. Every. One. Her green pen covered the paper. Slashing through lower case first letters, adding periods, completing sentences and sniffing out every God-forsaken misspelled word she could find. I was on the other side of the room, also correcting papers with the students, and watched Ms. Beltramy as I worked. The papers I corrected certainly deserved no grammar awards, but they were obviously filled with a lot of time, effort and work. Which was more important?
Kevarri was standing next to Ms. Beltramy, watching her correct his paper. I watched his tiny shoulders slump under his blue uniform sweater as she slashed away. He stared at the floor. Finally, taking his paper from Ms. Beltramy, he walked back to his desk and put his head down. He was crying.
I wanted to shake her. Grammar Nazi. What are you thinking? Did she really have to ruin a child’s day? Did she? Maybe she did. Honestly, I don’t know. Ms. Beltramy’s corrections were obviously right. The sentences did need capital letters and periods and may of the sentences could be re-written as more complete thoughts, but did we have to point out every mistake? Every one?
I’ve corrected papers and let minor errors slide before, sometimes more often than not. I realize that’s not really teaching the kids, but its also not destroying their confidence either. What is really more important? I could be wrong, but I feel like if a child has confidence and isn’t afraid to make mistakes, he will actually want to write and won’t be afraid to try. He will write more often, so we’ll have plenty of time to tackle the errors. They will probably still be there later; the child’s confidence may not.
My goal for my class is confidence. Knowing my kids have probably been through more than their share of grammar Nazi’s, I want to build them up, not tear them down further. I would rather have ten kids with self-confidence than ten kids with perfect papers. We’ll get there someday. In the meantime, I will save some errors for another day, and I will use green pens in moderation.