Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Helping us out of the Soup

As noted in a previous post, I spent too much of half-term writing my piece for the Manifesto. In my mind's eye was a delicious stew of tasty ingredients cooked over the stove of my enthusiasm and stirred with intelligence. Sadly I forgot the chef's chief skill - a light touch. Over-cooking and stirring too much produces soup. Every time I tried to edit, it became increasingly obvious that the whole thing was too close to see properly. I needed an editor.
So I was delighted when Tim, our Head of English, came to me with a problem. He needed to produce a CD for a Gifted and Talented Drama morning at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds. This involved recording one of the "stars" singing at lunchtime and creating a playlist for burning from disparate file formats. "Fine, Tim" I replied "but would you edit this for me please?" We both performed our tasks with admirable dispatch. Both were pleased and relieved with the results.
Back in the 60s we used to have a Maths genius on our bus, who would do our Maths homework for us. But this wasn’t true collaboration - I’m not sure whether I learned much about Maths, though I’m sure he enjoyed the sense of power.

So why was ours a successful collaboration?

We both had:

• a clear idea of the desired end result

• clearly identified the obstacle

• knowledge of the best person to supply the necessary skill

• trust that the other person would supply some honest toil

• belief that each would respect the other’s feelings

That last bullet applied to me particularly – I don’t think Tim had a huge emotional investment in the production of the CD. But it was a salutary reminder that learners do have feelings about their work and a healthy dose of humility is required to gain the maximum benefit from peer editing.