Today is the last day of peer reviews and I couldn’t be happier! We’ve had to write four essays this semester and each one has to be submitted for review by other class members. We each have to review the two essays that were posted after our own, which isn’t too bad. In theory.
Every time I do a peer review, I feel like I’m the meanest person on the planet or that I am the only one that doesn’t understand the point of a peer review. Everyone else is writing reviews that talk about how great the essays are and hardly mentioning any mistakes. MY reviews point out grammar errors, spelling errors, citation errors, punctuation errors and flow errors. I’ve been writing all these long reviews (there are 5 questions we are required to answer for each essay and then add any additional comments) mentioning where ideas didn’t flow very well, how paragraphs weren’t transitioned between, which sentences didn’t make sense, which in-text citations were done incorrectly, which points weren’t adequately explained, where there were words used incorrectly, if the wrong style was used (first person vs third person), whether the language was casual or academic, etc. I did my best to give a thorough review to each person so they could have adequate information to base changes to their essay on.
After doing my own reviews, I’ve gone through to see what other people are writing about the same essays and it just amazes me that people don’t comment on some of the big errors. It just seems like most people are giving ‘great job!’ reviews instead of constructive criticism. How on earth is someone supposed to know they’ve done something incorrectly if someone doesn’t point it out? I mean, good grief, in one essay I reviewed, a girl used (#1) and other numbers throughout her essay before quotes and in the middle of quote statements. I’m unsure if she was referencing the works cited listed at the end or if she was trying to do an in-text citation. Either way, though, it was done incorrectly. The other guy who reviewed her essay flat out said he saw no errors in the citations in the essay. What on earth! Her works cited list at the bottom was done incorrectly, too, so I don’t see how he can comment that there were no errors.
It just really surprises me that people aren’t giving solid feedback. I guess this is just a result of the society we are living in: everyone is told they are doing a good job even though what they did sucks. Not that any of these essays were terrible. They are fairly good rough drafts, but that is all they are. The two I reviewed need some touching up before they are ready for a final submission, but they weren’t the worst essays ever written.
Which brings me to my own essay. The reviews on mine were fairly favorable. The only major ding I got from either girl is that I didn’t have any opposition in my essay, which is entirely true. I’d thought I had included some, but upon re-reading my essay, I didn’t include any. It kinda cracked me up a little bit when one girl was commenting on part of my thesis (the part about education relating to obesity) and she spelled education wrong. I’m not trying to be mean or anything. It just made me giggle. And then it made me go back and read my own reviews where I found grammar and spelling errors I’d made in those. That made me laugh, too, because I’m commenting on grammar and spelling errors in this guy’s essay and in my review I’m making grammar and spelling errors, too. Made me feel a little silly.
On my essay, though, nobody mentioned the lack of transitions between some of the paragraphs, the fact that some of my paragraphs just mention ideas and don’t expound on them and incorrect word usage. I found a couple uses of ‘if’ that should have been ‘is’. There was also no mention of how my essay ends very abruptly. I ran out of time and had to write a quick closing paragraph and have zero transition between it and the preceding paragraph. Oh well. At least I know I made those errors.
Part of me wonders if my excessive notice of errors in essays is my own perfectionism. I have this high standard of work that I require of myself, as much as I sometimes wish I didn’t, and this leads me to see multiple errors and mistakes in my own work while the teacher consistently gives me 100% on my essays and other classwork. This makes me wonder, too, if maybe I’m the harpy of the class. I point out errors I see in essays because I want others to do the same, but now I wonder if my classmates see me as nitpicky. At the same time, I also wonder if these kids (most of them are recent high school graduates) really do not understand grammar and sentence structure and honestly do not see the mistakes as errors. One of the essays I reviewed was slightly painful to read. He used simple sentences for almost the entire essay. The few sentences that weren’t simple sentences could have been broken into two or three compound sentences. I mentioned this in my review, but the other person who reviewed his essay said it read well and flowed nicely. Am I crazy?
In reading these reviews by other class members, I’ve started doubting my own ability and understanding. At the same time, though, I reflect back on my high school English classes and recall that I’ve always been in advanced English classes. Not that I’m trying to say I’m an English genius, just that I’ve done very well in English classes in the past. When I was a sophomore, I was taking the senior English class with my brother and later I was in AP classes. Before that, all through elementary school and middle school I tested at high school and college English levels.
*sigh* I guess I should just be happy that I don’t have to do any more peer reviews this semester. They stress me out because I want to be constructive and helpful in my reviews, but I also worry a lot about the writers thinking I’m just being mean. Thank goodness they are over. Granted, I signed up for another English class next semester, but at least I’ll have the summer to revel in not having to review other students’ essays.