Sunday, March 17, 2024

A Case for a Good Editor: Thank You, Kobe

Spelling, pronunciaion, using proper nouns, writing in paragraphs. Proofreading your word, making edits and keeping it "tights" (thank you, Hemingway) may be out of style in the personal lives of my students but not in my classroom. Do teachers today need to double down on a classical education? Does my personal commitment to detail make me a grouch or an Ignatian educator? Might the answer be both?

While I have given up some battles at this point in the year—detention for dress code or tardies for students not in their seat when the bell rings—I have left a few dogs in the fight. The fundamentals of writing is one of them. 

For exampl,e any student that submits a paper without paragraphs gets a deduction in points and the same comment: paragraphs help you organize your ideas and your reader to comprehend them. The usage of paragraphs is a non-negotiable. I circle, highlight and mark any "I" or name that is not capitalized. I have shared the best tactic I was given for how to proof read. I went out of my way to tell my seniors that the Super Bowl is a 1) a proper noun and 2) two words. Yes, this a hill I am willing to die on. But why? Why is accuracy in language and the fundamentals of writing important? The recent unveiling of the Kobe Bryant statue in front of Arena gave me an opporunity for students to get the "why." to ask my classes what they thought.

I showed the photo of the new statue. One student, a basketball player, was excited to tell us it is the first of three to be placed in front of the Lakers' home court. Those to come will feature Bryant in his No. 24 jersey, and the other will be of him standing next to Gianna, who died with him and seven others in a 2020 helicopter crash. But the first, unveiled on 2/8/24 (a special date) already needs revision. Why? At its based is a replica box score of Bryant's 81-point game. José Calderón is misspelled as Jose Calderson, Von Wafer is "Vom Wafer," and "DNP — Coach's Decicion" has a typo. There's also a formatting mistake in Bryant's career accomplishments. The Lakers are working on a fix.

I told my class, "As you know I can be a stickler for grammar, spelling and more, but honestly, why should the Lakers fix this? Seems like it will cost a lot of money. Who really cares? Aren't they making a big deal out of nothing?" Responses varied.

One student said "it should have never happened in the first place. Period."

  • Agreed. But it did happen. So why not leave it?
Another student said "it shows respect for those people and their accomplishments." 
  • Okay. So attention to details matters.
I asked "if you change one letter in your last name, does that make a difference? Might some of you have a different name altogether?" A few realized that could be true.

And when one student said "One approach to take is to assume you are always wrong. As someone else to verify. Everyone needs a good editor." I wanted to do a backflip. I asked the class, "Did everyone hear that?"

I admitted that I took on the role of devil's advocate, and was happy to do so. Why? If their teachers and peers don't advocate for proofreading, good writing, editing and more—this is what happens. Rather than talk about the statue and its signficance, we now focus on this. Much to their suprise I added, "And as much as I don't like the Lakers, I'm not throwing any stones here. To their surprise, I shared the story of when something similar happened at SI." I will link the story here.

Discipline of any sort requires commitment, a steadfast spirit, a belief in purpose and a willingness to "stick to it." My guess is that if we extend that to writing, it will most likely carry over into other areas of our lives as well.

Full disclosure: I know there are several necessary edits needed. for this post, too

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