Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cleveland Elementary

5th graders are bright. I visited Cleveland Elementary School in Norwood, Massachusetts, two weeks ago to talk about FISH, journalism, writing in general. At one point, one of the kids posed a great question.

"If you've written something that you think is great, but your friend reads it and says it's really bad, do you listen to your friend?"

My answer was a little long and winding, but I basically said that you have to think about your friend's critique, and consider whether there might be any truth to it, but ultimately you have to listen to yourself. I added that you should never take the first person's word. You're better off waiting for a whole bunch of people to tell you that you're terrible before you start thinking about believing them.

After class, one of the kids caught me in the hall. He was nervous, maybe a little annoyed. He summarized what I'd said with regards to criticism, then pointed out a contradiction. Earlier in the class, when another kid asked me whether I was an artist, I answered that I'm not very good, then cited the fact that a very skilled illustrator once told me exactly that.

The kid recounted this story about my artistic skills, then said, "You contradicted yourself! Maybe you're not such a bad artist after all."

A budding lawyer, perhaps.

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