Rubrics: 3 Relationship-Building Powers

Creating rubrics will ensure a lasting relationship.

Photo provided by "toni toni dancing in the rain"

Photo by “toni toni dancing in the rain”

1. Rubrics are Trust Contracts

All successful relationships have one ingredient in common: clear communication.  I constantly remind my students that there is a relationship forming within the classroom between the student and teacher.  One way to assure this relationship keeps afloat is through a rubric.  If you were to go on a date, and he has promised you that it is a casual event, so you show up in jeans and a nice (aka clean t-shirt); however, when you arrive, you find the men in tuxedos and women in sparkly ballroom gowns, you are going to feel beyond a bit out of place.  You are going to jump in the first cab out of there. . . . Nothing is more disheartening to a student than when they spend hours upon hours on a paper, and then turn it in, only to find that they have done it all wrong.

Omit the tuxedo surprise and create a rubric; otherwise, chances are, your students will not take a second class with you.

2. Rubrics Take out Suspicion

Rubrics have the magical ability to omit that question we often hear from our students: “What did you want again?”  To this I usually reply, “What does the rubric say?”

After you leave, what you think is a “successful” date, you do a very rushed short goodbye because it has just started to pour outside the restaurant where you are both standing.  On your drive home, you begin to analyze the last minutes in the rain: “Had you made a second date?”  “When he said, ‘I will see you soon,’ does that mean tomorrow, the day after, should you cancel your already lame plans for the weekend?”  (This is why people hate to date.  It can become a guessing game.) . . . Rubrics provide a visual for students that they can take with them after they leave the classroom.  If you have ever assigned an assignment verbally at the end of class, you know that when you get back to your office, you will probably already have two phone calls and numerous e-mails from those students: “How long does it have to be?”  “You wanted three sources?”  “How many points is this worth?”

Save some space in your in-box, use a rubric, so you don’t leave your students standing in the rain without an umbrella.

3. Rubrics Communicate Expectations and Performance in Assignments

Rubrics are a tool to measure a student’s attainment of knowledge, not only for the teacher but the student.  If you can’t stand when your date picks his teeth with that long finger nail that he needs to trim, but you do like that he asked how your day was before he went into how horrible his was, how does he know what you like or dislike if you never tell him? When I hand back  student essays, I don’t simply slap a letter grade on the last page and call it a day and tell the student to figure out why they received the grade they did.  I complete a detailed rubric with categories: Ideas and Content, Organization, Context, Grammar/Mechanics, and Formatting/Citing.  Categories help the student visually see what areas they are doing well in and what areas they want to focus on for improvement.

Ok, you probably shouldn’t carry around a score card to give your dates at the end, but verbal cues have the possibility for them to stop picking in their teeth.  And, it allows your students to see that they need to work on their comma splices.