Week Five: Let’s Collaborate

“I’ve learned to look everything up.”

“I’ve learned I’m sometimes mean as an editor.”

“I’ve learned when to make changes and when to leave well enough alone.”

Those three anonymous statements were shared along with 18 others today in class. Before submitting their first manuscript projects for grading, our students were asked to go around the table and share what they had learned in this first unit. This sharing, in my humble opinion, was one of the most important pedagogical moments we’ve had so far in class. It allowed the students to internalize what they’ve learned. By verbalizing their learning to their peers, they were internalizing what lessons they found most helpful, and what lessons from this unit they can carry over in to the next one. Finally, by hearing what their peers learned, I think they became more attuned to how other editors learn to edit, and therefore, how to work with other editors.

That last point, being aware of fellow editors, is a significant learning outcome. In preparing for this course, I hadn’t expected collaborative learning to be of tremendous value. Perhaps I feel this way because every editor I’ve known sits in a cubicle, goes about her or his day quietly, reading documents and occasionally chirping up to read an interesting news update or snort a little at a poorly-worded clause. As a writer, I’ve seen editors work mostly alone, occasionally collaborating when clauses get complicated or puns too plentiful. Until now, it seemed to me that editors can more or less avoid their colleagues until it’s time to pass the manuscript. To students, I would have explained editing as a profession in those terms. I’m now rethinking this assumption for a number of reasons.

Media depictions of uncollaborative editors aren't usually justified.

Media depictions of uncollaborative editors aren’t usually justified.

Two exercises and one quiz into the semester, I find myself encouraging students more and more to seek second opinions. I’ve encouraged some students to take the edits they’ve made to our university’s writing center, where a tutor can not only check for missed errors but also explain her process for editing texts. Some of our students struggle with what seem like basic skills, such as knowing how to spot errors they commonly overlook. How does one remind oneself to check for an error one commonly misses? Make a note. Make a list. Tape it somewhere you see it frequently. It’s a most basic skill to learn; even so, if we weren’t discussing it as a skill, how many instances of overlooking and committing serious errors would occur before our students learned this skill? Would it prevent them from getting a job?

Some of our students have every rule memorized but lack the ability to apply those rules. Again, at this point, collaborative learning becomes more useful. It’s far from helpful to project the image of the cold and distant editor who’s sharp as a whip when it comes to answering any grammatical rule. Doing so perpetuates an unrealistic representation of the field and the human resources available to editors. In my first blog post, “Week One :Let’s Discuss,” I argued that we should teach our students to discuss their processes more often, to consult one another. If we encourage this approach in the classroom, perhaps it will take effect in the workforce. If we become more collaborative, perhaps we will make the editing process less individualistic and less fatiguing, and then the manuscripts will be better, too.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Jackie, Great points. I know my entire outlook on writing/editing has changed with my new position. My coworkers and I share and edit everything together. Being able to have someone else say, you’re not a crazy person randomly babbling, but here are some ways to seem even less so…works wonders. You’re a rockstar.

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