Category Archives: Editing
How can schools meet the needs of homeless students? Can coaches provide a resource for kids’ academic growth? How should we respond to students who self-injure? By addressing questions like these, the academic research we share in Professional School Counseling has a real impact on the work school counselors do with students every day. I’m so fortunate to serve as assistant editor of this journal, published by the American School Counselor Association, and learn about the challenges and successes taking place in our schools.
The Elementary School Counselor’s Voice in Counseling Transracially Adopted Students, by Susan F. Branco and Pamelia E. Brott
“Do whatever you can to try to support that kid”: School Counselors’ Experiences Addressing Student Homelessness, by Stacey A. Havlik, Patrick Rowley, Jessica Puckett, George Wilson, and Erin Neason
Student Non-Suicidal Self-Injury: A Protocol for School Counselors, by Nicole A. Stargell, Chelsey A. Zoldan, Victoria E. Kress, Laura M. Walker-Andrews, and Julia L. Whisenhunt
Revealing School Counselors’ Perspectives on Using Physical Activity and Consulting with Coaches, by Laura Hayden, Meghan Ray Silva, and Kaitlin Gould
Gender and Ethnic Bias in Letters of Recommendation: Considerations for School Counselors, by Patrick Akos and Jennifer Kretchmar
Operation Occupation: A College and Career Readiness Intervention for Elementary Students, by Melissa Mariani, Carolyn Berger, Kathleen Koerner, and Cassie Sandlin
Supporting Students in Military Families During Times of Transition: A Call for Awareness and Action, by Rebekah F. Cole
School Counselors Transforming Schools for LGBTQ Students
Professional School Counseling, Vol. 20, No. 1a
“We look forward to a time when LGBTQ students enter the school building with no questions about their safety, role, or value.” As the assistant editor of Professional School Counseling, I was proud to work on the new special issue, School Counselors Transforming Schools for LGBTQ Students. It shares best practices for school counselors in schools and communities to create affirming environments. This special issue is available to all to give its content the widest possible audience, thanks to its publisher, the American School Counselor Association.
What do you do when you just can’t seem to get yourself to focus on the task at hand? To shut off Twitter, stop checking email, quit doing chores that seem suddenly irresistible, and just accomplish the thing?
When I asked my fellow editors how they stay focused, they reported that they use rewards, time-management apps, and background sound. Rewards for putting in an uninterrupted block of time might be chocolate, time for playing Skyrim, a walk with the dog, or—of course—a fresh cup of coffee or tea.
Editor Robin Marwick motivates with an app called Forest, which grows virtual and actual trees for you—provided you don’t touch your phone. But when she gets really spacey, she says, she resorts to a simple and surprisingly effective visual: a white board with post-its reminding her what she’s doing now and what she’s doing next. Other apps that editors like are Timesheet (for tracking hours) and Self Control (an actual app for blocking your own access to distracting sites).
Sound vs. Sound
To tune out aural distractions, suggested apps and websites include:
- A Soft Murmur
- Simply Noise
- Hatnote (audio of Wikipedia edits)
- Listen to the Clouds (airport chatter; pick a foreign language)
Since I prefer mechanical devices to electronics, my own technique is to wind up my vintage Baby Ben alarm clock. The ticking is enough to snap my attention away from electronic distractions (“That ticking! Oh, right, must focus on work”), but for some reason, the sound doesn’t interfere with my writing. Like Robin’s white board, it’s mysteriously effective.
Working with music playing is a matter of personal preference. Those who find it helps them focus suggest Pandora stations or customized Spotify playlists, baroque music, classical guitar, classical Indian ragas, or even classic rock, provided it’s playing in another room. Editor Beth Bedore turns to her trusty clock radio to manage time. “I use the sleep button and tune it to a classical music station or CBC. It’s an hour at a time of background noise. When the radio goes silent, it’s time to stand up, refresh coffee or water, check messages, and then get back to work.” Like Beth, other colleagues in home offices use music as a time-management tool by working for the length of one album or listening to the duration of one song while taking a break.
Breaks are really important, it turns out, and research on work/break ratios points to 52 minutes of work with 17 minutes of break as being most effective. A similar approach is the Pomodoro Technique, with 25-minute work blocks, 5-minute breaks, and then a longer break after 4 blocks.
You can use breaks to train your brain to focus for those optimal lengths of time. One approach proposes giving yourself a minute or two on a timer to check your mail or notifications. Then, reset your timer for 15 minutes—notifications turned off—to work without checking in. Once you get used to 15 minutes, you can gradually extend that no-distraction period up to 30 minutes. (Read more about retraining your concentration.)
Of all the guidance I found, I was most intrigued by the suggestion that what you wear to do your work, even in your home office, affects your focus and productivity. I’m investigating that now and looking forward to polling my home-office colleagues about whether they dress for success.
In June 2016, I had the privilege of working with John A. Booth and Sarah Schwind of METAVERO as they were preparing their booth and materials for the Kscope Conference. METAVERO provides Oracle implementation and support services. John is the company’s founder and managing director (he wrote a chapter of “Developing Essbase Applications: Hybrid Techniques and Practices,” which I edited) and Sarah is their operations director.
For METAVERO’s presence at Kscope, we developed a tri-fold brochure, banners for their exhibit booth and client event, website content, a PowerPoint template, and two informational postcards focusing on key components of their business. I edited or wrote text for these pieces, but the bulk of the credit goes to the outstanding artists who created the visuals: web designer Ella Hutchings and print designer Stewart Moon. It’s rare these days that I get to work on a project with so much visual emphasis—this was great fun. (Shown above are Larry Geraghty, John, and Sarah in the METAVERO booth; shown below is the horizontal booth banner.)
Cards: METAVERO Process and Fishing for Solutions
Words matter. Every communication that you send—e-mails, letters, reports—influences others’ impressions of you, for better or for worse. We keep this in mind when we’re interviewing for jobs, but we tend to become less careful over time. We’re busy, we’re working quickly, and maybe we don’t have someone on hand to run an eye over our words before they go out into the world.
Some of the shortest and simplest work I do for clients is also some of the most important. I call this service document review. I read over clients’ important e-mails, proposal cover letters, or PowerPoint presentations and make sure the grammar, spelling, and punctuation is correct. Do their plurals and singulars agree? Are their commas in the right places? Did they leave out a word?
Without getting paralyzed by worry that your grammar is making you look unprofessional, you can take some easy steps to feel confident about your writing—both in everyday work and for more important projects.
- Read it out loud. They tell the kids that in middle school and it works for any of us: if you want to catch a wording error, read that e-mail or letter right out loud.
- Don’t try to be fancy. Use simple language and make your points clearly. If your sentence goes on and on, break it up into separate sentences. Impressive words won’t make you look smart if you use them incorrectly.
- Curb your enthusiasm. Use exclamation points sparingly (and only one at a time!) and save emojis, text smiley faces, and LOL for Facebook.
- Read over your titles. Now do it one more time, slowly. So often, even professional editors miss obvious errors in titles, headings, headlines, teasers, or captions. Double-check everything—and read it out loud just to be sure.
- Make a style cheat sheet for yourself. Do you regularly misspell certain words? (I can never get recommend or embarrass right the first time.) Are there rules you can’t remember? (One Post-it on my desk says “Toward not towards.”) Look them up, write them down, and keep the list where you can see it. Spell check helps, but it won’t catch everything.
- Apostrophes cause trouble for a lot of people. Here’s a handy (and funny) guide to using them.
- If you need help, hire an editor to put together a short style guide (or cheat sheet) just for you. Have him or her read through a few of your letters, e-mails, or other short items you’ve written, note your common errors, and make a list for your reference. And for those times when a project really matters, working with an editor can help your writing shine.
I hope these steps will make you more confident in the writing your business requires and help your words work for you rather than against you.