Receiving a graded essay is unlike receiving a graded math test; the piece does not lose points based on being “right” or “wrong,” because literature is open to interpretation, and essays demand insight. Therefore, it is harder to grasp why an essay receives a ‘B’ instead of an ‘A’ after one spends countless hours writing it. To address this issue, the English department set up the system of the writing conference — sessions in which the student meets one-on-one with her English teacher to discuss her writing-- in order to help students and their writing grow and flourish.
Writing conferences provide students with the opportunity to explore their strengths and recognize their weaknesses and to discuss how to improve. Teachers often model organizational strategies or syntactical choices. During one of my sophomore year writing conferences, I remember my teacher asking me where I thought my essay’s weaknesses were. I gave her a list. Little did I know that some of the areas that I thought were my weaknesses were actually my areas of strength. However, if I had simply received my paper on Fahrenheit 451 with the grade and comments in the margins, I would never have fully understood what I should have done the same or done differently in my next essay. It is an invaluable experience for a student to be given the opportunity to sit with her English teacher and work out how to edit prepositional phrases or ask questions about which piece of evidence more fully supports an argument. Without individualized attention, from a teacher who is aware of our growth during the year, there is no other way for us to reach our full potential.