Thursday, November 5, 2015

Students' perspective

I asked my students to give me their perspective on my feedback.  Two of my students sent me a paragraph to describe how they feel about comments/feedback to their writing.  I thought it would be enlightening to hear directly from them.

"The response I get in regards to my writing are very helpful, and serves a role in its evolution. Without your corrections and comments, I would still be confused over tense and subject agreements, and placed commas in awkward spots (and I most likely still do). The only problem I have is that you are often not strict enough with your feedback. Sometimes, I would notice errors in my work, and often feel that my writing is scattered and nonsensical. I would like to see more comments into how I can improve my writing not only with grammatical/spelling corrections, but also as a whole. I may be taunting the lion here, but please do not hold back."

"I was always told that I had a knack for writing. I let that comment feed my ego. I always thought I could out write everyone around me. My experience in college has been a very humbling one. It's the first time a college level English Instructor has critiqued my work and proofread my writing. I never saw my writing any other way until now. I discovered throughout my professor critiques that I had a habit of using too many filler words. I caught myself doing it in later assignments and corrected myself during my first and second drafts of the writing assignments. Now that I'm writing at a college level, I welcome all and any critique of my writing. It has helped me improve myself as a writer. I write much more efficiently as a result."

Monday, November 2, 2015

Kinder, gentler feedback

My manuscript is getting read by editors, and so far, the rejections follow.  The last two rejections included some helpful suggestions, so I have shortened the manuscript, taken out some characters, and added a scene to clarify the identify of one character.  A list of characters, both historical and non-historical, is now available.

But let's face it - rejection hurts.  As I have read the notes written by editors, it occurred to me that the feedback I provide for students is similar to the feedback I have been receiving.  Recently the editors are not writing the generic "this is not a good fit for us" but the more specific "the number of characters is daunting. As times shift, it’s hard to keep anchor. "  I admit 45 characters may seem overwhelming, though some of my favorite Charles Dickens' books have more characters.  I'm not comparing myself to the indomitable Charles Dickens - but sweeping historical novels often need many characters to populate the space and time. 

As I read the notes from editors like "it's definitely a 'no' at this point," I think of the notes I write on my students' work.  Do my messages encourage them, or discourage them?  Do they inspire students to work harder, or hurt their feelings?  I'm thinking a lot more about what I'm writing, and how I'm communicating in the feedback I give students on their written work.  I hope that by examining myself, and the way I communicate how students can improve their writing, I will become a better teacher.  And as I seriously consider the feedback I receive, a better writer as well.