Saturday, March 9, 2013

Are You an Education Editor or Critic?

I was listening to the song, "Story of your Life" by Five for Fighting, on my way to work today. As I pondered the lyrics of the song, I started to wonder what role editors and critics play in the lives of those who are writing the stories of the lives. We have those who criticize our stories (CRITICS) and those who help shape our lives (EDITORS).

In education, we have millions of students who are writing the stories of their lives, and we must decide if we will be their editors or their critics. Before we make a decision, we need to decide which role we play in the lives of children.

What are editors, critics and the similarities and differences between the two?

Editors are people who edit material for publication. They take rough drafts and turn them into final products. In education, editors take students as they are, see opportunities for improvement and take specific steps to help students realize their potential. They help students identify the errors that they continue to make and work with the student to turn mistakes into opportunities for growth.

Critics are people who judge, evaluate, or analyze works. They also tend to readily make trivial, or harsh judgments. In short they are faultfinders. In the school, critics blame students for not having the ability, work ethic, background or experiences to be academically successful. They see students' mistakes and shortcomings as reasons that the student are not growing.  In short they only see limitations.

Editor & Critic Similarities

These two people are similar in that they both discover areas of weakness or errors. They are both detail oriented and can see things that authors can't possibly see. Educators must be able to identify weaknesses and errors in students' learning. They must be knowledgeable in the content that they are expected to evaluate. What they do with their findings is what separates them apart.


The major difference between the editor and the critic is their commitment to the author.

Editors make stories better. Because they have an emotional investment in the author, they possess a deep commitment to see the author's story become a classic. Education editors also have a deep investment in the student. They are committed to seeing all students succeed, and all of their efforts reflect that moral obligation.

Critics can criticize a piece of work and walk away. It's easy to be a critic because he has no emotional investment in the author. In education, critics are more self-serving than editors. They are more concerned with the level of performance students are expected to meet rather than helping students grow to that same expected level of performance. Critics are more focused on their own reputation as an educator than the student's potential to learn, and as a result, student success is optional in a critic's classroom.

So which are you?

Like I said earlier, it is easier to be a critic than an editor. It is easy to find fault and then walk away. It is much more difficult to see the diamond in the rough and do whatever it takes to bring out the diamond's luster.

Millions of kids are in classrooms. Each day, they write another page in the story of their life.  Some pages are epic and some pages hardly have a word on them.  So we have a choice. Will we support each author by helping them edit each page that they write, or will we waste their time, and ultimately ours as well,  critiquing every single word that they write?

If you think about it, education already has enough critics from the news media to the legislatures and every place in between.  Schools don't need another critic, especially coming from within schools.  We need more editors to turn stories into novels.  So we have a choice.  We can either criticize and walk away or we can engage in the tedious task of guidance and influence.  The choice is ours. 

I prefer to be an editor. It is harder but worth it.

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