Making the grade

The first week of the term went well for my industrial and organizational psychology class. My biggest fear, that students wouldn’t actively participate in the discussion, was entirely unfounded. This is an engaging and insightful group. Although during my teacher training course I did some practice grading exercises so I could learn how to use the system, none of the assignments I reviewed were for real students that I knew. This week has been different.

I’ve graded both the discussion and the written assignments and shared the results with the class. Part of me thought I would be what I think of as a tough grader, nitpicking small details and seeking perfection. To that end, I’m pleasantly surprised by my instincts. What’s made the difference, I think, is that I’m approaching it from a place of empathy.

As I offer feedback, I’m thinking about what would have helped me the most when I was in their shoes. Sometimes I would get back papers with only the boxes on the rubric checked. It didn’t help me understand what I could do to improve, what would set me up for success as I continued in the program.

Applying these thoughts to my mental health journey, I realize how helpful and generative it has been to hear from people who have been in similar headspaces to my own. Their words haven’t been judgmental or prescriptive but rather offering a perspective for my consideration. Occasionally, they have reframed something or offered me another resource to consult.

In this way, we are all teaching and all learning.


  1. Brava! and right on. Achieving empathy is liberating, as I began to learn somewhere in my mid-30s, I stress “began” because for me it is ongoing almost 50 years later, like quietly crossing an invisible line in the sand after you’ve knocked down the once impermeable wall (or peeled back the layers of onion to find there is nothing lurking there in that center dark and secret that you’ve been defending against the world, just you), and with empathy comes understanding yourself and caring for that self and then others. It’s an easy concept to see but to live that connectedness takes courage and humility.

    Liked by 1 person

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