Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | September 28, 2011

Teaching, it’s sort of just like editing

I’ve just finished a full day of editing writing assignments by my 16 college “reporters.” Many of them are earnest young people eager to do good work. I’m impressed with their ability to write in a foreign language and their willingness to take on a tough assignment.

Some of them, well, they’re not as earnest. But I like them all. I think they’re OK with me, too. Maybe, by the end of the semester, I’ll like them more and they’ll like me less. Who knows?

Anyway, it got me to thinking about my life’s work, which has had me editing other people’s writing for, oh, 25 years or so. And while it had its moments of pleasure, there were many times it was painful, or unrewarding, or just a chore.

But there’s something about working with young people, raw in their skills but eager to learn, that reinvigorates me. They’re looking for guidance, for feedback, they hunger for reinforcement.

That’s not always true of professional reporters. They don’t want (or in some cases need) your input. They want you to tune up a story, sure. Fix the typos. Tighten the sentences, if you must. But leave it alone. If something doesn’t work, send it back. They’ll take care of it.

I’m not saying that I had an unsatisfying working experience. Quite the contrary. The reporters I worked with were always generous in their praise (especially when I was leaving). They made me feel wanted. But I know I’m not really needed. But here, with these kids, I’m needed. I think I’m needed. Geez, I hope I’m needed.




  1. You’re needed.

  2. AH, my son the teacher. I’m sure you will find it rewarding, and
    sometimes frustrating, too.

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