Several times in the 20 or so years since my first child started school, I’ve visited classrooms to talk about writing. Teachers are eager to tap into writing and editing expertise from outside in order to reinforce the lessons inside.
This year, the invitation came from our district’s newest fifth-grade teacher: my wife. She and her teammates thought I should talk to all the fifth graders, so I did three 30-minute lessons on how to edit.
Now I can become pretty animated when talking about editing. It’s a passion, but you have to keep kids entertained a bit, too. It’s fun to see 20 fifth-graders scanning a story projected on a white-board (remember the old overhead projectors? Way better than that!). They were searching for typos, run-on sentences, and any other mistake. Their hands would shoot up into the air with the hope that they could tell me what was wrong.
At the end of each session, students could ask questions about writing and editing or about my job as the editor of Construction Equipment.
Here’s what they asked.
1) Do you still enjoy what you do?
2) Do you write about anything other than construction machines?
3) Do you get to drive the machines?
4) What’s your favorite machine?
If you’ve ever been invited into a classroom, the same thing has happened to you. What questions were you asked? Did anything surprise you? (The school principal visited one class; she had a question, too.)
For those of you who have never done this, consider it. Frankly, we need students to see successful equipment professionals. I guarantee you that most kids haven’t a clue what you do, and most teachers don’t know either.
It’s a bit of a rush to see fifth-graders interested in what you do for a living, even if only two or three say they want to be writers. But those three kids this week saw a real-life editor who loves what he does. They know that with some hard work, they can hone skills and become great writers. They discovered new opportunities for writing and new careers that employ writers.
It turns out more than a couple heard what I said. Word has reached me that students are already applying “Mr. Sutton’s editing tips.”
You could have that same effect in your schools.