I’ve been thinking a lot about writing lately. Particularly revisions. While I’ve been thinking about this, one moment from when I was writing my dissertation and turning in draft after draft keeps coming to mind.
It was one of the many nights a friend and I met at coffee shop to work for hours upon hours. I was reading the notes from my chair and researcher and making revisions. At one point, I looked at my friend and said, “I just wish they would tell me exactly what they wanted.”
The words caught in the air and I laughed. I was pretty sure a student or two of mine had made a similar plea to me when talking about their writing in class.
To be clear, my committee was awesome. I don’t have the horror stories I’ve heard from so many others. They were just pushing me, making me take ownership of my own writing and my own thinking. That is hard. And downright frustrating at times, to be honest.
The hard work, though, is the rewarding work.
While my own experience made me more compassionate, it also made me more determined to help students understand the value in the struggle. When the work is hard, when they may be a bit frustrated, when they just want us to tell them exactly what to do, that is when they are right on the brink of meaningful work.
We can’t mark up students’ papers and tell them exactly what they should change. Then the work becomes ours and it takes away the student’s voice. We can’t ask leading questions in writing conferences that encourages only our thoughts about how the student should write his or her paper. Then the student is more worried about doing it the way the teacher wants instead taking risks and finding their own voice.
We have to let students struggle, so that they can be empowered as writers. I know because I’ve learned this lesson as a writer too.