Green: Self check

Renae Green
Renae Green column

This past year, I’ve been privileged to teach college writing at Tarleton State University. It’s a rare and joyous occasion when one gets paid to pursue her passion. Since I love to write, and I love to teach, and I’ve done both for free on many occasions, it’s been a special bonus for me to do those things and actually draw a paycheck.

One tip I learned from another instructor (thank you, Ms. Thornton) is to offer students a self-check before a major paper is due. It’s basically a list of things their papers should have, or things they should double check, in order to get a good grade. For example:

• Do you have a heading, including name, date and course number?

• Do you have a title? (Yes, even college students forget to include a title.)

• What strategy did you use to hook your reader in the opening paragraph?

• Is your thesis clearly stated in the last sentence of the opening paragraph?

• Have you checked each sentence for spelling, grammar, and style?  

And on it goes. The actual checklist fills an entire sheet and bleeds into a second page.  If students go through the questions, fill in their answers, and turn it in, they receive a 100% for a daily grade. Plus, ideally, they’ll get a better grade on their actual paper.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

The problem is, many students won’t bother with the self-check. I’ve made it as simple as possible for them. I’ve spelled out exactly what they need to include to be successful on that particular assignment. Still, quite a few of them will not complete it. They’ll make a zero for that daily grade. And they probably won’t make a stellar grade on their paper, either.

SMH. (For those of you not familiar with text-speak, SMH means “Shaking My Head.” I’ve had to become fluent in this language so I can communicate with my students in their native tongue.)

Each time I’m tempted to be judgmental of those students who don’t complete this activity, I’m reminded that I’m no better. I’ve been given a detailed self-check for my life. If I study it closely and do what it suggests, my chances of being successful are much higher. But all too often I let the checklist sit there on my bedside table. I don’t read it like I should. When I do read it, I often just skim through. I forget to compare my actual life to the words there. I forget to make changes, as needed.

Some view the Bible as archaic, wordy, and useless. I disagree. It’s a powerful tool, and when used correctly, it can lead us to the successful, joy-filled, peaceful and purposeful lives we desire. It’s all been laid out for us; all we have to do is read and compare. Read and apply. Read, and make necessary changes.

When we do this, we’ll still make mistakes. But they’ll be fewer and less severe when we compare our lives to this standard. Maybe not easy peasy, but certainly worth the effort.

“All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work,” 1 Timothy 3:16-17.

Renae Brumbaugh Green is a bestselling author and award-winning humor columnist. She lives in Stephenville with her handsome, country-boy husband, nearly perfect children, and far-too-many animals. Connect with Renae at