“I know that it’s not possible to write a competent interview without some juggling and eliding of quotes; don’t believe any writer who claims he never does it…What’s wrong, I believe, is to fabricate quotes or to surmise what someone might have said. Writing is a public trust. The non-fiction writer’s rare privilege is to have the whole wonderful world of people to write about. When you get people talking, handle what they say as you would handle a valuable gift.” (On Writing Well, William Zissner)
I wonder if the journalist’s tools might be more helpful to me than the educational researcher’s. Even though journalists share few of our interests, their predicament more closely resembles our own. Out for an interview, at first there are two people talking. And hours later it’s a writer with a notebook trying to faithfully capture that conversation.
Every time I sit down to write about a classroom experience I worry about my honesty. Am I making this up? I look to student work, sometimes I had managed to scribble down a quote or two during class. I bet I could get handier with my notebook. I need more scraps of the past.
And I also wonder whether the work of the teacher researcher is more about writing than research. We have no communally accepted standards of evidence. There is no experimental design worth talking about when you’re alone with your students. We teachers can’t afford to have systematic research methods, not when thirteen kids are yelling for help.
So, we pay attention as best we can and then we write. But do we pay enough attention to our writing? What sort of stories do we tell? What our the cliches of our genre? How do we improve the craft? What’s captures attention, what’s interesting?