Yes, and?

I’m at the point in February where I have to make peace with my plans for the weeklong recess: my to-do list is unbalanced with too many have-to dos and not enough get-to dos. The upshot is that I get to deal with my list while in the sticks of North Carolina, where I’ll have spotty Internet access and can begin to wean myself off Facebook. I schedule this break intentionally every year and I realize I’m usually so frazzled for the first couple of days that I tend to miss the beauty of being somewhere else.

Not this year. Yes, I have stuff to do. I’m goal-oriented, so there’s no doubt I’ll get those tasks accomplished, but I’m going to remind myself that I will NEVER be in the world of done and that I need to slow it down. I’ll go into the nearby small towns, do some leisurely reading at the book store, pick up some gifts for my niece and nephews, some new yarn for yet another project I probably won’t finish…I will enjoy my time.

Oh, and I have to grade the latest set of papers from my students. Rookie move, assigning a paper that was due the day before break. But, they needed the practice…

Crazily (?) enough, I’m most looking forward to embracing a way of responding to student writing that I learned about after attending an NCTE presentation by Katherine Bomer in November. She suggested that rather than entering into a conversation with a piece of student writing by seeing what’s wrong, that instead we start saying yes, and? Yes, you’re making this point…and what else might you add to help the reader understand why it matters, for example.

I tend to be relatively encouraging with young writers, but, there are times when I know I’m too brusque, or too vague (imagine that), or too caught up in my own writing that I can potentially shut out a writer. And working with adolescent writers is difficult, particularly if they think they aren’t great writers in the first place. 

Yes, and? allows me to check myself. So, when I’m writing a comment in the margin via Google docs (the way I respond to most drafts now), I’m more likely to write yes, and? rather than something less inviting. Yes, and? is an invitation, as it were, to say more, to expand on ideas, to illuminate relevance. To keep writing. That’s the ultimate goal, actually. 

Thus, I like this way of interacting with their writing, a way of responding that is both validating and encouraging for students, and  a reminder for me to keep the doors open for the writing improvement that inevitably happens if you just keep working on improvement…yes, I’m interested in what you have to say and the myriad ways you might say it. 

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