Those kids will NEVER read it.
As English teachers, we know how frustrating it is to read essays for hours, make thoughtful comments, and then hand back the papers that have only one letter students care about. After they see the letter written in red at the end, they often discard the comments.
That was so foreign to me when I started teaching. In high school and college, I was almost as interested in the comments as I was in the grade. And I always read the comments first, and tried to figure out what the grade would be before I got there.
Why did the feedback mean so much to me, and so little to my students?
So I did something drastic: I stopped giving them a grade on their essays.
I taught an Essay class where they never got a grade for a piece of writing. I gave them credit for meeting the requirements, yes. But never for the quality of their writing. And contrary to what many people would think, I don't have all A's or F's in my class. I have a pretty even spread, pushed towards the higher end - as expected in a class where students voluntarily sign up to take a class where they write dozens of essays. I had one F (in the high 50's), two D's, a handful of C's and the rest A's and B's.
That being said, I wanted them to divorce grades from writing. I wanted them to have the freedom to explore the topics and voices they didn't yet own. I wanted to see the creativity they had, not the structure they had learned.
So what did they do when I gave them the intensely individual, focused and detailed feedback form? The one that I spent 30-60 minutes on per student?
When I handed them back, there was several moments of near total silence. They read what I wrote. They shared with their group members. They came to ask questions about what I wrote. I didn't find a single feedback paper on the desks, in the trash, or on the floor in the hallway.
And not one of them asked about their grade.
Instead, we had conversations about their writing.
One of the proudest moments of my career.