“Responding to students’ papers is like composing, like looking at the mess of my experience and ideas and trying to tease some patterns and order out of it. When I’m responding, really responding to a student’s mess of a paper, I’m thinking like a writer: figuring out what I have to say about the paper, and what the audience (the writer) likely will think/feel/do if I say it like this. Or if I say it like that.”
Maja Wilson

And so spring break comes to an end in Western New York. I’m grateful to have spent much of mine reading and playing and resting with my family. I also spent some time lurking around in the English Companion Ning, participating in some conversations and simply listening in on others. I’ve found myself completely absorbed by the discourse provoked by Maja Wilson as she has facilitated the ECN Book Group. So many of us are asked to wrestle with rubric design and with the implementation of them as “grading tools” that it is easy to overlook potentially higher purposes, which have more to do with perpetuating learning and growth.

The statement above tugs at my heartstrings a bit. I’m reminded of some of the best teachers I’ve had– the ones who gifted me with their feedback so that I could refine my own work. As Wilson illustrates, generating the right words for such a venture is a process in and of itself. It isn’t easy, and maybe it shouldn’t be. Thinking about the work that our students produce and thoughtfully constructing the response we provide allows us an opportunity to learn as well. Maybe that’s the “back end” of the writing process—the part that we don’t often consider. Perhaps the writing our students do isn’t merely about them or their development as learners. Maybe it’s about ours as well. Maybe that’s why it is so worth it to do what we do.



  1. I’d love to hear how you tackled the book club discussion. Every time I poked my head in, I felt like I was missing something or that posters were repeating comments that had already been made. Did you find that it worked as discussion venue?

  2. I really remained a lurker–keeping up with Maja Wilson’s prompts and then skimming through the comments and finding myself following people back to their pages to learn more. I haven’t been able to get a good start on the book yet, which is why I’m not really participating, but I’m finding that observing is giving me a good amount to consider (some of it not at all relevant to rubrics–ha).

    In terms of whether or not it worked for book club discussion….well…hmm. Maybe it depends on how you define “worked” and what your expectations were as a participant? Something about the massive size of the conversation that might make it hard to manage. Book clubs are typically smaller–might prevent the sort of confusion you mention? I wonder how @e_shep’s Twitter book club experience might have compared? He is doing something similar with a Wilhelm text.

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