Thursday, March 27, 2014

When was the last time your work was edited?

Every time I write something that isn't for my eyes only, I fret. I write, procrastinate, read aloud, write a bit more, procrastinate a lot more, write, edit, and revise until I make myself a bit (more) nutty.

On this blog, though, I have freed myself from the need to be 100% comprehensible, because sometimes I think it helps to share my thinking journey with the help of my wonderful network of learners. The learning/thinking process is often murky, tiring, and sometimes frankly overwhelming.

Recently, I had an "aha" as I attempted to extinguish the anxiety of submitting my work for an editor. Every time I've gone through the editing/revision process with an editor, whether it's the ASCD Arias book I just completed or for my occasional pieces for EdSurge, I've gained a greater appreciation and deepened empathy for my students.

When they put their thoughts into words, and receive our "helpful" feedback, students are in such a vulnerable space. I wonder how often we ponder this as we take our colored pens and proceed to write on top of their work. I wonder how what we say,  even down to the tone of our words, impacts the future of our writers. This brings me to my question:

Have you had a recent experience of sharing your work and going through the writing process with someone who had some sort of authority or power over it?

Maybe we don't need to have others edit our work to remember this feeling. But it can't hurt to try it out. Next time you write that blog post, poem, or short story, why not send it to a friend who will be brutally honest? Or even better, why not take the plunge and submit your work to your favorite website or publication?

Your students will thank you.


Tracy Watanabe said...

Hi Joan,

Recently I was asked to critique something, paying attention to all the details, and send my feedback... and it was very worthy of my time and effort. But I honestly didn't know what to say. I wanted to say, "It's amazing! I love everything about it! I want to be like you when I grow up!" (even though truthfully, I'm sure I'm older!)... but I feared that such a positive response would look like a Twinkie -- sweet with absolute no nutritional value.

So I found every little thing that could be improved -- they wanted details, right? And I was so proud of the effort I put into it that I didn't take a moment to think about the truths I know about feedback -- critique with praise, give one suggestion or guiding question, and end with praise.

My work wasn't edited -- but I was so concerned with the content, making it creative, impressing the reader, and not providing a Twinkie, that I didn't realize it turned into a rotten tomato.

I learn from my mistakes and rarely make the same mistake more than once... and I learned a valuable lesson. -- But I have to say, without that pressure, the type of pressure I'm assuming one would experience with their work at the mercy of an editor, I wonder if I would have delivered a meal worthy of Bon Appetit. One can dream, right?

Thanks Joan for helping me reflect on this!

Kind regards,

Joan Young (aka Mancini) said...

Hi Tracy,

Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment. I love that expression, "Twinkie!" I'm sure that I have left such feedback before in blog comments..ugh.
I think it's key for us to think about the role we play with students, and I suppose other teachers we work with, and determine if our feedback is empowering or "tearing down." It's all in the delivery, I suppose.
Thanks for helping me reflect even more.