Hello everyone! This is the first post for The Favors Glossary. Below I will discuss how I arrived at this idea. I will explain my process for the book from 2006 to present-day. I will offer also some kind of direction for what I hope to accomplish for the blog.
Drop-in Writing Tutor
During both my undergraduate and graduate studies at San Diego State University, I served as a drop-in writing tutor. Students would sign up to see a tutor and I would be there to help them through the woes of writing and revising the academic paper. As I continued to serve in this role, first as a classroom tutor and then later on as a drop-in, I became frustrated with the notion that the writing tutor was (and is) supposed to be some kind of doctor. “Fix my paper so I can turn it in and get an A,” a sentiment I believed many students had of teachers and tutors alike.
What I wanted for the drop-in tutor position and the teaching profession was to provide tools for students to use to help them assess, analyze, and revise their own papers. Why can’t the student sit down and look at their own paper? Why can’t the student take the professor’s comments and apply them to their paper? You know why the student can’t do this?
The number one reason is this: all of us have never been taught “how” to revise our own papers.
Now here comes the debate. I can hear an English teacher at this point in the blog say, “I do my best to help my students. It is up to the student to buckle down and just learn the material. I can’t learn the material too.”
That’s not what I’m writing here. What I mean is this: When we first learned grammar and writing and other subjects, we learned the material enough to know it in order to pass a test. We didn’t take the time necessary to understand what a “dangling modifier” was or what a “comma splice” looked like on paper. We learned the material, took the test, and went on to the next subject.
In addition, and this is a big “In addition,” when we approached our teachers about comments they wrote on our papers, just basically asking for minor clarification, the teacher wouldn’t offer much guidance on how to revise the paper. Here’s a typical dialogue.
“You gave me a D? I don’t understand,” the student asks, puzzled.
“You didn’t explain here. You need to give me more explanation. How am I supposed to know what you mean?” replied the teacher.
“Well, I explained it here. You told me to add a few sentences and I did. I don’t understand,” said the student.
“Look, I told you to add the sentences. But you still have to analyze. You have to offer specifics about the theme and the work as a whole. Ms. Jones, I can’t write the assignment for you. It’s up to you to write your own essay,” said the frustrated teacher.
“Professor, I understand that. But you are giving me a D and I don’t know what you want. Can you help me understand what you mean by ‘be specific’?”
“I want you to offer specifics, more detail about this. Add some more explanation,” said the teacher.
“But that doesn’t make sense. If I do that, then the whole paragraph would suffer,” replied the student.
“Look, this is the way I’ve been taught and my teacher before me. You have to learn how to write your own paper. Refer to the book for more help.”
“This is the way I have been taught.” These are the famous words many teachers and professors use to justify their grading styles. Of course, this statement doesn’t help the student at all.
The student leaves frustrated unable to figure out exactly what he or she needs to do and the teacher is frustrated because she can’t explain what she means in terms of applying her own comments to the student’s paper. Both the student and the teacher leave the semester still ignorant, and I mean this respectfully, about the writing and the revision processes. Yes, there are two. The revision process deserves more attention.
In answer to this problem, this frustration that each student has with a professor who doesn’t know how to offer an explanation of “be specific,” I created and wrote the Favors Glossary of Commonly Annotated Professor’s Comments (unpublished) in 2006. When I wrote the book, I initially wanted it to be a reference source, a handy tool for students to refer to when they received a particular comment on their English papers such as “add more detail here” or “this is not fully expressed.” Then I realized that I could transform the book into a full-scale academic textbook that covered the revision process.
There are so many textbooks on the market today that cover the writing process, from brainstorming to proofreading. They basically gloss over the revision process, which is actually a longer process, more labor-intensive to the point of tedious. Just because you finish a paper doesn’t mean the paper is finished.
There’s more to the revision process than just checking for grammar.
I can’t seem to get this book published, as either a self-help, a reference tool, or as an academic textbook. For one, I believe that I have a great foundation, but there are some issues with the book that need work. You know how it is. You have this great idea and you know what you want to say, but you are having trouble conveying the meaning and structuring a sentence that will meet your needs.
Therefore, I have decided to post my glossary on WordPress.com.
My purpose is four-fold:
- To start a dialogue about understanding professor’s comments and applying them within the English paper
- To get feedback from students and teachers alike on the frustrations that plague and prevent them from moving forward
- To offer students an online resource that helps them understand and confront the ideas within their papers
- To get published
Yes, I had to throw that last sentence in to the mix. I would be lying if I didn’t have a strategy here.
Now that I have provided you with a background for this book, I hope you will subscribe to the blog and gain some kind of insight into your own revision process.
Let the journey begin!