Amid all the craziness of the past few days — particularly my excitement with the students about the publication of The Shako — I received notice that an article of mine has been accepted for publication in English Journal. This was the second one in a week, which is by no means an average result!
Each thing I get published thrills me in some small way, of course, but I would be lying if I said that some publications didn’t have extra meaning. It might be that the publication is in a market that I considered beyond my reach, or perhaps it might be on a subject that’s seemingly well outside of my specialization, or maybe I have a clear and poignant memory of the circumstances in which it came about. This most recent accepted article is special for combining several of these factors.
Last summer I spent a few weeks as a student once again, taking part in the Lowcountry Writing Project‘s Summer Institute. My classmates were almost entirely current K-12 teachers in local schools, and the time spent was worthwhile just for the experience of learning the myriad difficulties that our teachers are facing on a daily basis as they labor to educate our children. I was exposed to a lot of pedagogical methodology that doesn’t come up in the college classroom.
As part of the LWP, however, the Summer Institute was also built around lots and lots of writing. I don’t think it’s shameful bragging to say that this came pretty easily to me; at the same time, it is a bit shameful to admit that as a result I “coasted” for the first part of the Institute. The man in charge, Tom Thompson, a valued colleague in my department, noticed. He chided me one afternoon, suggesting that I at least try writing something out of my comfort zone.
At around the same time we’d read for class a rather famous recent article from Alfie Kohn, published in English Journal in 2006, in which he attacked the use of grading rubrics. Tom seemed generally in favor of Alfie’s positions, while I thought them generally ludicrous (I’m an admitted rubric user).
Fine. I decided I’d dip my toes in the waters of pedagogical writing — an area in which I have zero experience — and write a short article explaining why Kohn was, in a word, wrong.
The result, a few days later, was a roughly 3500-word essay, “The Infamy of Grading Rubrics.” I tested it out on some of my classmates, who loved it. Tom liked it, too, though I think he was still uneasy with my pro-rubric flag-waving.
I cleaned it up and at the end of August I got around to sending it off to English Journal. This seemed a good market not only because it is an excellent academic journal, but they’d published the article by Kohn that I was attacking.
Fast forward to acceptance of the article this past Friday. As often happens when you send an article to a blind peer-reviewed journal, I got to see the reports of the two anonymous (to me) readers who read my anonymous (to them) article. The reports are very detailed and very flattering. The summary statements were perhaps the best parts, though:
Reader One: “The Infamy of Grading Rubrics” is a persuasive argument for the use of rubrics. … I am reminded of the famous break-up line: “It’s not you; it’s me.” I could picture a cartoon to supplement this piece with a teacher speaking to a rubric. This author shows clearly that it’s not the tool; it’s the user. Bravo.
Reader Two: For me, this article is a logical argument against the perceived illogic of Kohn’s position. Whatever a teacher’s beliefs about the matter, I believe that educators will be challenged to think and re-think while reading the article.
I was also greatly pleased that the second reader took the time to observe that he or she “also enjoyed the poetically persuasive style of the writing” in the piece. (I couldn’t help myself, it seems!)
So I’m all smiles at the moment. And you can read the article and judge for yourself when it comes out later this year!