Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.
~E. L. Doctorow
Learning is seldom linear and is often messy. It is in this “messiness” that we make mistakes and learn from them. In the learning, we find growth and improvement. As a young writer, I used to get extremely anxious when it came time to turn in work to my English teacher, Mrs. Thompson. No matter how careful I was or how closely I followed her directions, my paper was always returned with copious amounts of red ink. In addition to my dislike for all the red ink, I hated the writing process: draft, refine, publish, revise, refine, publish, repeat. What I didn’t understand at the time is that Mrs. Thompson was preparing me for life.
Anyone who spends any amount of their professional life writing (emails, reports, articles, rebuttals, etc.) knows how important this process is. As an adult, all written material that I distribute is reviewed by no less than three proofreaders. For shame if my participle is ever left dangling. While I still have some grammar rules to adhere to, Mrs. Thompson taught me the most important lesson of all: writing is a process and yours can always be improved.
The real power of the red pen lies in its ability to make one reflect and consider other opinions and alternative options. Just as Mrs. Thompson did so many years ago, our teachers make sure students see the value in critical/constructive feedback. Our HMS and WJHS, reading/writing teachers provide students feedback in multiple forms. Our teachers conference with students individually and in groups. Likewise, the written and online feedback that our teachers provide is tremendous. Our teachers also stress the writing process, because in addition to improving our kids’ writing ability, it helps them understand that perfection is a process, and that it doesn’t always come easily. In a world of instant gratification, this maybe the most valuable lesson of all. When students need to struggle to improve their work is when the real learning happens.