Crying in my coffee

Writing can be a lonely and frustrating business. Writing for online learners of English as I do is particularly tricky: I don’t get much feedback from my readers. As my employers are very busy, asking them to review and edit my work is not always possible. But that means that any errors I make and any nonsense I write is my problem, and it’s out there, and there’s nobody to tell me what’s going on. So when they do, it’s like a gift, like a mantel of love.

Sometimes I get negative feedback from readers, in the form of two stars out of five. (Love notes, Wanted! The crime of the century) That makes me feel about five years old. Seeing those nasty stars makes me cry in my coffee. That helps.

Yesterday I got wonderful, constructive feedback from Gill. And I met the people who will be working with the Moodle stuff I’m writing. That was wind in my sails, I’m on my way with that project.

So back to work.

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Teaching English for business communication skills, writing online for learners, translating, sailing whenever I can, from Washington, D.C.

13 thoughts on “Crying in my coffee”

  1. Hey Anne, I’m not sure about the “stars” you are taking about, but generally I don’t agree with giving “marks” or stars to blogposts. Taking the time to write one sentence or two as a comment is a sign of appreciation to me, or at least of some kind of interest. As for me, I enjoy reading your blog, both as a teacher and a learner, even when I don’t write any comment.

  2. Hey Anne,
    it is true, that in fact, it is much more easier to read than to write, or to give stars than to write a comment especially for students. I agree with ALiCe_M, that one has to take the time to write one sentence or two as comment, but for some people, who don´t write very much, especially in english, it is a real task to break through the wall between being a passive consumer and an active writer, even for the one or two sentences.

    Yesterday in a public discussion in Berlin, I heard the argument, that you´r getting stupid, when you´re using new media, because that is not the real life. While reading your Blog, this is a very crazy argument. If somebody wants to learn something, which he or she can use for his or her real life, then he or she can learn writing and learning to express yourself, e.g. on a blog. And especially on your blog, you learn a lot of about culture as well.

    Greetings from a big, often too consumer-oriented fan of your blog. keep on writing!

  3. Dear Alice and Helburg,

    Thanks for sharing a warm cup of coffee with me :)

    I, too, often read blogs and then don’t write a comment. I sometimes feel like it would be intruding, and I prefer to say something if I really have something to say. There’s a lot of noise out here on the Internet.

    We should get rid of those stupid stars over at Spotlight. I didn’t like them in kindergarten, either, and that’s what they turn us writers into: little children in a big Internet kindergarten.

    A blog is different, I know you (or feel like I know you), you’re two of my small group of readers. But this is my hobby-plus-professional-development space. I wouldn’t let stars or any measuring devices in here. I’m a homegirl here. I let down my hair.

    But in professional writing my output is evaluated (so Spotlight etc.). The pressure to create top quality is there. That quality is evaluated on two markets that have relatively little to do with each other:
    1. by page impressions (if the pages are non-premium)
    2. by opinion leaders (editors and bosses and peers and mentors and clients). Their opinion is especially important and rewarding, it gives my projects scope, so if they’re willing to engage that’s a treat. The page impression results are good, so the “objective” feedback is fine, and I really should just relax. But the Internet would be a soulless place if not for the people who communicate here.

    I wasn’t fishing for compliments, Alice, Helburg, but thank you very much for your very warm words of encouragement. – Keep on writing about how the Internet is making us stupid, Helburg, I’m curious to hear more :)

    Have a good day!

    PS: Have switched off Twitter updates on these blogposts, need quiet to focus and be productive. Will tweet posts worth tweeting :)

  4. I should think that no matter how busy any organization is, a process should be in place that allows a second set of eyes to proofread everything.

    One way I catch my own mistakes when writing something is to print things out and read them aloud, because my brain is more likely to notice mistakes that way. Still, electronic text production has made me lazy sometimes, especially where blogging is concerned, and then mistakes creep in. At least those I can correct, if I notice them.

    Do you know Taylor Mali, “The The Impotence of Proofreading”?

  5. Hi Mark,

    Yeah, very funny guy, that Mr Mali!

    Sure, there is editing, of course. And we talk, so I know what my excellent bosses like. I do the entries myself, so I can make corrections at any time, just like on my blog. At Spotlight, my work flow is very close to the publication date, to react to what’s going on in the world. But writing for online, doing the research, writing the text, developing the exercise, formulating feedback, creating media and entering it all into the system to make a nice interactive package out of it lets in weaknesses of all kinds. The logical lesson flow of an exercise can be wrong. The explanations in the feedback can be aimed at the wrong level learner. Little things, like inconsistencies in formatting, can confuse people. I think I need time with a media coach to review my exercises and get a better feeling for what makes for real quality. Because editing can’t really go that deep.

    But of course it’s the spelling mistakes that people fix on. And spelling mistakes, when your eyes become computer-shaped, are always a danger. One teacher actually said on Twitter that there were so many errors that she couldn’t recommend the online pages of the magazine. When pressed she didn’t have more than an ‘s to criticize. Didn’t change her mind, though, so I keep thinking I must have dropped something awful somewhere. Or maybe it was another writer? We’ll never know. – That sort of thing is incredibly demotivating. There goes your reputation! So I feel very lucky when I get constructive feedback from readers; and I love them for it :)

  6. Hi Anne,
    As you probably have realized by now – I’m a dedicated follower – on my daily routine trip of what’s going on in the world today I always stop by the island weekly. It’s a kinda intimate – maybe knowing you quite well already makes it more so – intimate.
    So, please don’t get shot down by silly stars. It infuriates me as a free-lance when we’re evaluated – sometimes torn to shreds by students.
    However, we ourselves are never given the chance to lash out at those begrudgers, we have to take it all lying down. Our suppliers are only interested in the consumer and we the service providers, if you like, have to take it all.
    So keep up your stimulating topics, songs and discussions, they’re just great!
    You have a nice restful and peaceful weekend,

  7. Dear Joan :)
    Hope you’re having a very good weekend. Hm, let’s get together to have a pot of tea so you can tell me what’s going on in your neck of the woods.
    So: rest and relaxation to you, too!

  8. Listen, Joan, sorry:

    I didn’t respond properly. I saw your “It infuriates me as a freelance when we’re evaluated – sometimes torn to shreds by students” and looked the other way. Not ok.

    OK, evaluation / assessment is a huge problem. Let’s talk about teaching now, not writing, for the moment, but things are similar. On the one hand it’s necessary, how else can we know how we’re doing. On the other, there are no perfect systems.

    I was thinking this over at a recent online meeting with Alfie Kohn (Shelly Terrell was one of the moderators). He’s a guru who feels grades are wrong and should be done away with, since (he says) they impede learning. He said that even using categories developed by the students themselves to assess the quality of their work in order to create “fair” grades was wrongheaded. I’m going to explore this further, must read his books (see, because I’ve had to assess students in the past and will again in the future. Plus I’m writing tests, and they output points, so I’m always aware that students may get, yes, well, two stars out of five!

    Back to teacher assessment:
    1. It’s hard to develop categories and degrees that do the learning/teaching situation justice; in a perfect world, we’d work together to create guidelines to make it work, and celebrate it when it does.
    2. It’s hard to deal with individual or group criticism if you don’t get a chance to ask back for clarification; in a perfect world, students would be reflective and give us honest feedback that we could work with, and we’d get a second chance.
    3. It’s hard to deal with an administrator who might possibly be using the consolidated feedback, or individual instances or criticism, to disqualify you; in a perfect world administrators would be keen to build a good, productive team and would have the circumspection to recognize our weaknesses and support us where we need it, without putting us down.

    Now, about that tea we’re going to have…

  9. Hi Anne,
    Sorry for getting off track there and thanks for the nice reply.
    No, feedback and assessment I find is indeed very important for development whatever the topic or situation. But in the case of teaching – be it adults, children or adolescents – real feedback would be best as a two-way street.
    Each student evaluates the trainer / teacher and the teacher in turn evaluates each individual student. That would produce a complete picture for everybody involved. And feedback with kudos is of course exhilarating.
    Yes, we’ll have that pot of tea or two, sometime soon!
    And now we’re trying to build up a forum to communicate with the Ukrainian teachers, – teaching ideas, activities, good links anything of interest.
    So you may have something to contribute there, too.
    Cheers, Joan

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