Most Valuable Writing Lesson

A few days ago, my son Jonathan proudly announced that he had received a 98 on his major research paper for his eighth-grade English class. My English-professor husband and I had spent a lot of time and energy offering assistance and advice for this project, and we were thrilled at his grade. So Michael asked Jonathan, “What do you think was the most important lesson you learned about writing a long paper?”

As we waited for Jonathan’s answer, Michael and I thought of all the lessons we had tried to impart, such as the importance of organizing your thoughts and the necessity of summarizing main points instead of just reproducing numerous facts. We had pointed out the correct format for citing sources and the need to utilize good transitions. We had encouraged Jonathan to revise the paper and insisted that he rewrite portions of it multiple times. The process had not always been easy, and Jonathan had not always been happy to receive our advice, but we were pleased with the final result.

So what did Jonathan think was the most valuable lesson he had learned? “I learned you have to have a really thick skin and not get upset when someone criticizes your writing,” he announced.

Not exactly the answer Michael and I had been expecting. But we were glad he had learned this valuable lesson—even if it had not been one we thought we were teaching.

A thick skin can be a valuable asset for all writers—and parents.

June 9, 2011

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