This morning I congratulated my composition students for completing the final reading response of the semester. "Now don't you all feel like better writers?" I asked, and a few of them said "Yes."
It's always nice to pause for a moment at the end of the semester and remind students of how much they've accomplished. Sure, they still have to revise their researched essay and write the final exam, but they're through with everything else--all those reading and writing assignments, all those in-class exercises, all that research. (Well, some of them will need to do a little more research as they revise, but in theory, they're done.)
And they are better writers--every single one of them. Not perfect, certainly, but every student in that class has moved from point A to point B, while some have progressed much further up the alphabet.
The improvements are visible in the reading responses I collected today: at the beginning of the semester, any set of papers from that class would feature massive variety in line spacing, margins, and other elements of format, but today they all look pretty much identical. Earlier papers would include no quotes or quotes dropped in without proper punctuation or citation, but today's papers demonstrate an admirable uniformity in ability to integrate, punctuate, and cite quotes. The ideas expressed are still those of 18-year-olds, but at this point they've read enough to know a little bit more than they did at the start, or perhaps to have gained an awareness of just how much they don't know.
"I'm going to enjoy reading these papers," I told them, and I will. They're not perfect, but they provide concrete evidence that the 14 weeks we've spent working so hard have not been wasted. Good has been done here! Let's pause and give ourselves a pat on the back. (And then get back to work.)