Since I made a mistake and wrote two entries for last week’s assignment, I get the benefit of adding another one to my repertoire.
Shaugnessy makes two points in “Errors and Expectations” concerning propositions on errors. The first one she discusses is that “errors count but not as much as English teachers think” (120). The other is “The teacher should keep in mind the cost to himself and the student of mastering certain forms and be ready to cut his losses when the investment seems no longer commensurate with the return” (122). I bring these two points to attention because I can relate to what Shaugnessy is saying here. As a teacher, it is often impossible to make a negative call on each error that occurs in a student’s paper. Many times it is an error that will keep repeating itself throughout the lifespan of the semester, and the student will never quit making the mistake. As distasteful as it is, an English teacher sometimes has to “look the other way” so to speak, in order to get through the grading of numerous papers filled with errors.
It’s also true that teachers sometimes find it necessary to know when to “cut their losses” when trying to help a student fix a problem. There are too many faces in the classroom to keep coming back to the same one over and over again in order to give attention. There will come a time when we will just have to realize that although it may not be in the best interest of the student, we have to move on and work with someone else.
I do find it shocking that Shaughnessy writes about this in the book. I have often felt that I have been under too much pressure to correct every mistake, and work with every student who made repeated mistakes in order to be a good teacher. However, after reading that this is what other teachers need to do in order to survive the classroom, it makes me understand that I am not the only person who has come across this problem.
Shaugnessy, Mina P.. Errors and Expectation: A Guide For The Teacher Of Basic Writing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.