Where’s my red pen?

The Daily Mail published an article that states teachers are supposedly soon going to have to start using pink pens to mark with instead of red. The reason for this, is that pink is ‘less aggressive.’

I can understand that there can be worry for students, that they feel like they are a failure if their work is covered with red corrections. But for me, I didn’t feel that the red pen was a bad thing, it was simply the pen that the teacher used to mark my work, just like I used black to write my work. I don’t think changing the colour will change the feelings associated with the markings. Red is a good colour as it contrasts well with the blue or black ink that the student writes in, and I think that should be the only consideration when deciding in what colour to mark.

The articles also looks at having different pens for different uses, pink for corrections, green for growth. But surely that would become way too confusing? Any annotations that the teachers writes are ideas on how to improve you work, or what you have done well. I don’t think these then need to be split into lots of different categories. By the end of sixth form, I was lucky to have one pen in my bag, never mind a whole set of different colours to write different things in each. In addition to this, teachers have enough work to be doing, rather than faffing around changing the colour of their pen every couple of seconds. They need to mark students work quickly and efficiently, and to do this, I think that one marking pen is sufficient.

The main argument for this pen change is that red has negative feelings associated with it. But I think if we change it, we are at risk of wrapping students in cotton wool. I am a huge advocate on the importance of student wellbeing, but I really don’t think students mind about the colour of the marking pen. I think if the student is upset or concerned over this, there may be other problems that need to be addressed. For example, the teacher may be writing comments too critically and not constructively, or maybe the work is openly handed out and they feel embarrassed in front of their peers that they are making mistakes, and so it is not actually the red pen at fault.

From personal experience, I cannot remember how I felt about marking when I was younger, but now, certainly from sixth form and beyond, I liked feedback. Regardless of whether it was positive or negative, it meant that the teacher had taken the time to read through my work. Also, this criticism which we are apparently so against, is only to help the student their work further, develop their current knowledge, and help them to get a better result. So what is so bad in that?

So I hope that teachers will keep marking in a simple red pen, as this idea of bringing in different colours for different things, honestly, it’s all a little complicated for me!





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