Letter writer Suzanne Reisler Litwin (Teachers! Don't be Red-Pen People, September 25) suggests that teachers who use red ink in correcting assignments are somehow damaging all students and contributing to student angst. Further, she admonishes those classroom practitioners who do not play with and/or feed their students. Additionally, she suggests that teachers become friends to their pupuls.
Credentialed teachers occupy a unique place in society. They, and they alone, are charged with delivering a government mandated curriculum anchored in an established academic framework. Teachers are specifically trained to deal with all manner of curriculum issues with the overarching responsibility to make sure that all (as many as possible, anyway) have achieved the maximum level of expertise for their grade level. Finally, every teacher must judge each and every pupil by delivering a grade/mark attesting to that individual's achievement in a formal and permanent report.
Teachers are not registered nurses and so must not administer first aid of any kind; classrooms are not cafeterias and teachers must not feed their charges; teachers are not trained in physical education and play must be left to those who are qualified; and teachers must never attempt to be friends with students. Teachers evaluate and may have to do so harshly; therefore, a distance must always exist between the world of students and the realm of the teachers.
Learning is hard work and especially so when seated in a classroom in a school being drilled in things that may be of little immediate interest. Nonetheless, that is the system which this society has embraced and it is one that teachers have a duty to perform. The one and only goal of any teacher is to see that as many students as possible achieve the highest standards as possible. Part of this complex process occurs when a teacher finds fault: spelling is incorrect, computation is wrong, or historical dates mistakenly applied. All errors must be clearly noted and judged!
Just as a hockey referee blows a whistle for a penalty and a police siren indicates some incident, the teacher's red pen is a marker. A clear indication that something is wrong - it may be a small or minor wrong or even one of greater importence - but such academic transgressions must be clearly noted so that immediate student attention is drawn to the focal point. Only in this way may the learner take responsibility for self-correction and self-improvement. Red pens are good - they are the swords of correction highlighting where improvement is required for continued academic advancement.
Jon G. Bradley
Associate Professor (Retired)