On Being the Author

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The derivation of the word author, a word used more frequently in the 1800’s than it is today, (replaced by the word “writer”?) still means a bit more than someone who writes books.

Middle English: from Old French autor, from Latin auctor, from augere ‘increase, originate, promote.’ The spelling with th arose in the 15th century, and perhaps became established under the influence of authentic .

The word was even sometimes confused with actor:  Derivation of author

I like the original sense of author as one who invents, or causes something and the connotation of authentic.

I met with a colleague and friend the other evening whose job it was last week to develop writing coaching for instructional coaches.  However, after her hours of careful preparation, her first day of presenting was cut to an introduction, like 30 minutes instead of five hours.  Or something extreme like that.  And then, for the final part, where she was going to give the instructional coaches time to practice what they’d been learning (on writing workshop) one of my friend’s managers got into her slide presentations and cut most of the practice and added in a bunch of unrelated items that were the party line, or the message managers wanted to be sending down the pike, without any perspective on whether they forwarded the teaching of writing workshop. All about alignment.  With what??

As L1 told me about this debacle, not only did I feel for her, knowing how much thought and care she puts into a presentation and training, but also I felt shocked, then rankled.  I remember the same incredulity and aggravation  I felt when teachers tell students the topic, what to write, where to put it and how to end it.  (See definition of “author” above.)

What happened to my coach friend apparently happens to other IC’s because, when the edited version was presented on Friday, and made very little sense, and allowed no real connection with the original — no way to rehearse taking the “training” back to their teachers, their eyes rolled, knowlingly.  They knew it wasn’t L1’s work.  They’d all been messed with, for the sake of getting “aligned messages” about —what?  Latest curriculum initiatives?

And I am further amazed that someone can treat a presenter’s writing as if it is their own to revise however they feel like it — not in conference, but from the top down.  A mandate.  No, after days of work, just do this.  Copy. Arbitrary.  Arrogant.

Sometimes school writing conferences with students lack that respect for the author, too.  A teacher (as the authority) will take over and say fix this, do that, and don’t talk about that, without respect for who the author is.  I think that is why such terrible prescripted writing continues to happen in schools, simply because the control, the authority, is in the teacher’s hands.  When, oh when, are we going to believe in student’s creativity?  And let them be in charge of their work?

Now I’m not suggesting that after I create, or write something, it isn’t a good idea to get a trusted reader or two and get some feedback on how to make the piece better.  That is different than co-opting the writer and teacher leader.  How about those managers getting out in the crowds and hawking their own wares, instead of undermining the work L1 and her colleagues were doing?

I see part of the struggle for schools and districts to stick with the work of learning to implement writing workshop as a lack of commitment.  It shows up when they adopt workshop then continue taking on every other new good idea that comes along.  Like being in a relationship, but the guy wants to keep dating other women.  We know how well that works.

3 thoughts on “On Being the Author”

  1. It is so important to be able to let people say what they were going to say the way that they were going to say it. If you let students write what they want but within the structure, they can say so much more. Great post.

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