Saturday 25 February 2012

Workshop worries… melting

The workshop carries on – see my last blog – and worries persist. I know that many students express regret at not having participated earlier when they eventually get it in their final year. I do therefore insist and thereby actually make it a little uncomfortable for them.
I have these concerns:
Students are not bringing work and there is not enough to share.
If they don’t bring work, the only feedback they will get will be after the assignment and then it’s too late.
They’re paying high fees – they deserve the service.
…. But if I “take work in to mark” … I’d be looking at between 60 and 75 pieces a week … about 30 – 35 hours of work – excuse me that’s a working work and the other work doesn’t go away.
Of course, there a reasons why the work isn’t being brought along:
The students aren’t ready to share yet.
Many are inexperienced writers.
With many I’m working on autobiography and that can be very personal and evoke some painful memories.
Some writers just don’t – and that is fine.
No matter how much we know the remarks about our work aren’t personal, it can still be hard to take – I was at a critique group today and I still squirmed when it was my turn to receive feedback.  For goodness’ sake, I give it out all the time and I’m quite widely published. And the piece we were discussing has already been accepted for publication. But you still want to disappear as people start talking about your work.  
My students and I have reached an understanding, I think.
Students may bring work along on a memory stick or email it to me.  The reward is they get intensive feedback. The cost is that they have to share their work with everyone in class. That has an immense value: we often learn more by looking at others’ work. We spot what we can’t see in our won.  But once having seen it in the work of another we can look back at our own more objectively.    
Students may ask me to look at work when they are working away in class or during the break.
I’m happy to take a little away with me at the end of each session. I’ll try to be fair if there isn’t enough time to look at everyone’s every week.  
Personally, I’m a great believer in critique groups, but also that in the end, especially when one has heard conflicting bits of advice, the writer has to make their own mind up.  
One of the most useful pieces of feedback is in fact for the reader to tell the writer what they have understood about the text they have read. And if you’re finding it difficult to find what to say, then just give a response: tell the writer what you’ve understood of their work.
I’ve discussed this in depth with my students this week. And at the end of Friday’s afternoon class, three people asked me to look through their work. One gave in something to be looked at for next week.
High fives?       

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