Haunted by the Red Ink

I remember opening my books as a young child, waiting anxiously to see how well I had performed in my classwork or tests. Often the anxiety resulted in ‘favorable outcomes’ but there were moments that didn’t turn out so well- These moments haunted me for a very long time well past those daunting years. Those dreaded moments were developed on seeing ‘The Red Ink’. Dreaded and despised by many-a-pupil in my time.

The Red Ink
The red ink signifies teachers’ written remarks. Back then, it was an indication that there was something wrong with one’s work. If it wasn’t a tick in a copy book or written with a blue or black coloured pen on a report card, it often indicated a problem. A problem that was usually written with a RED COLOURED PEN. 
It didn’t come as a surprise when I became a teacher many years later, that I disliked using the ‘red pen’ in grading my students’ work. I mostly choose a blue pen or bright and legible coloured pens that were more friendly to the eyes. I soon discovered that it was never really about the colour of the pen, but the remarks that came along with it, which was either discouraging or downright disheartening.

 Rita F. Pierson once graded a student who scored 2 out of 20, with a ‘+2’ and a big smile. “Is this an F?”, the student asked. Yes, she replied. “Why did you put a smiley face?”, he asks again. “Because you’re on the roll, you got 2 right, you didn’t miss them all” she replied. She went farther to ask him if he would do better after revision to which he answered a big YES! (Seems strange from a teacher right?)
It isn’t out of fact, that the kid  in question had performed way below average, but it was Rita’s hope to inspire this child to do better which turned out to be the case and frankly a lot easier.

Teachers’ comments on students’ work should be made to help them understand the strengths and weaknesses of their work, and to make clear how their work has or has not achieved the goals and standards set in the class. It is not to suppress the feelings (or the creative mind) of the student but to serve as a remedial process. A process that should guide students to be interested in finding solutions to mistakes and/or improving on their specific skills. It should even build relationships between the learner and teacher.

Todays teachers should champion the course of guiding the future of the students. Their remarks could either inspire or discourage a learner’s spirit. The spirit of inquiry and discovery continues to be the driving force of the world’s socio-economic advancements and teachers play a pivotal role in the entire process. 

All Learning is understanding relationships – George Washington Carver

I believe that a good student-teacher relationship has crucial, positive and long-lasting implications for students’ academic and social development. Students learn better when they have good relationships with their teachers……teachers they like.

See teachers tips for writing good remarks here.

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  1. Haunted? an understatement! those comments almost cost me my life”she is too playful”and my mum would descend on me! As a teacher today my exoerience guides me to give constructive remarks always.

  2. Yes. Some have even allowed those comments to follow them all through life. Believing that they are never do well. Such people need therapy.

  3. The onus really rests on the teachers to change their convinctions, perceptions and misconceptions as regards giving remarks. This can only happen successfully, when education institutions invest heavily in teacher training. The goal of teaching in the first place is in developing ‘real’ learners. Thanks Casmir and Chinyere.

  4. Absolutely true! Interestingly at this stage I am not haunted by the red ink,becauae I take red as my best color.

  5. As a child I felt like a big failurre whenever the red ink was given to me and it made me so afraid of that subject so much that I shiver during the next exam of that subject.I had mixed feelings such as anxiety,fear of another failure and others.maybe I did better but not so good either .I think every teacher should adopt Ritas concept n all our children will come out successful.

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