Saturday, March 9, 2013

Writing teachers who don't write. I am determined not to be one!


When I was in college (yes, I know this was a few years ago), and especially during my student teaching days, I never saw an example of a teacher who wrote. I never even heard any of my professors or mentor teachers talking about writing, or saw them write with their students. Everything was always about the end product; nobody discussed the process.
Then I started hearing about how important it is to read with your students. How your students can become lifelong readers based on your example. We dropped everything and read; we read in silence and we read in groups or individually. We  developed stamina in our students so that they could read longer periods of time.
What about DEW? Drop everything and write? Why didn't anybody instruct a new teacher on how to install the love of writing in our students as well?

But then, a few years ago, I started hearing a lot more about writing. Journal writing was talked about outside of elementary school. There were whispers of new standards that would require more writing. I became acquainted with professional books, blogs and websites that are dedicated to writing and encouraging writing. Through everything that I read, one thing became extremely clear: how can I expect my students to write if I do not write? Do I just hand my students the assignment and expect them to produce a perfect essay while I correct papers or record grades?

So, I decided that I would write with my students. If we were writing in our journals, I would write with them. If we were writing poems, I would write poems. If we were working on essays, I would be writing essays. If I want my students to blog, what better way to show them than writing a blog myself.

How can I encourage my fellow teachers  to take the plunge into writing; into creating? Or do we believe that composing an handout is enough writing? Or could it be that Internet gives us freedom from writing as there are so many ready made examples just waiting to be found? Or do we rely on technology to speed up the writing process, and trust that students will use technology to fill any gaps teachers might leave?

I don't really have the answers, but I know that if I want my ELL students to learn how to write essays or poems, or even how to take good notes, I better show them how to do it. I need to give them visual samples along with modeling the process.

What do you do in your building to encourage writing among your teachers?

19 comments:

  1. As I read your post, I connected from start to finish. Even with your closing question. I'll be checking back on the comments to see what ideas are shared.

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  2. True!! My writing process is messy. With charts being al the rage, I feel so unkempt writing in front of an audience too. The whole process feels forced cliche, organic in the sloppy way. The process of my writing cannot sustain the interests of a roomful for middle school students--yet I do it. They can see me self-editing. Stopping and starting. Thinking. The handwriting isn't as neat as that on most posted charts. The ideas don't always flow directly and neatly from a graphic organizer. But they can see that it is possible to draw from an original idea and shape as you go. The first lessons are always a little first-draft quality--but then students can watch you admit your rethinking. I haven't seen big results yet. Just tiny micro-steps . . . kids trying to take a plan to text. Any tips on keeping things simple, yet also sharing the never-ending editor sitting on your shoulder. Perfection rarely happens in one take.

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    1. You just described an organic process! Draft are not supposed to be mistake free and neat as a button. That is why we spend time revising. I am trusting that my students will learn from me; otherwise, why do it?

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  3. YES, YES, YES! Not only are students motivated by your writing, you learn the nuances of the writing process of the task you are assigning. Without your actively participating, you have cheated yourself of deep understanding of your students as writers and, like politicians making crazy laws about education, you really don't know what it is you are asking.

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  4. I think teachers are hesitant to write in front of kids because it is such a personal experience. Many of us were not taught to write in school. Sure we had reports and we were graded on grammar and punctuation, but I can't remember writing about my personal thoughts and feelings in school other than to state a viewpoint. I agree we can't be good at teaching writing if we don't walk the talk, but depending on your class I think it is hard to share personal feelings with students.

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  5. My favorite professional book about just this is Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle. If you haven't read, I bet you'd love it and find yourself and your writing practice on the pages. I too write with students, but I learned to do that in college. It's been talk of all of my years teaching, yet still many teachers at my school do not write with students. Encouraging them to do so by modeling and doing it myself is how I begin.

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    1. Lee Ann, a couple of years ago Penny Kittle came to my district to give a PD. I love her book! Unfortunately, many teachers just remember her booktalks and not the writing beside your students.

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  6. I SO connect to your writing. I began my Blog--Show--Not Tell--this month for that very reason. I am very fortunate to be in a position to support teachers as they take on Writers' Workshop as a way to teach students to write. And I do it through the lens of teacher as writer. Still, I found myself, months later, writing for professional reasons but not for self--thus my blog and gratefully this challenge that has given me a venue to write with a portal for getting feedback from others. It has been a wonderful experience. I love your idea of DEW. Thanks for the clarity you provided about this important message.

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  7. Reading comes easier, someone already has put the wonderful words on the page and you can enjoy them. Writing is more demanding, it is scary to create in front of the students. It's risk-taking. You have taken the risk, so you lead by example. Share your positive experience.

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    1. Thank you for your encouragement Terje!

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  8. My favorite books that revolve around teachers as writers are Penny Kittle's Write Beside Them and Kelly Gallagher's Write Like This.

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    1. I have both of them! Most days they are right on my desk with post-it notes sticking out from multitude of pages!

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  9. Love this post. It explains almost perfectly, my own experience of becoming a writer. I love writing WITH my students, and I know how much they LOVE seeing me write and writing with me. That, in and of itself, motivates me to do it more and more. Thanks for spreading the word about this important perspective!!

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    1. Thank you Jen! We will keep on writing with our students!

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  10. The days of assigning should be over. Mentoring through modeling is the most effective way to show our kids what we want from them. Sounds like you are doing just what you need to do. I find it so sad to see teachers who don't write with their kids.

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  11. I'm with Elsie - both reading and writing are most effective taught when students see us modeling the process. So much more meaningful that way!

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  12. I definitely write, but I have a hard time writing in front of my students. I want to take the plunge to write in front of them. I just need to overcome my fear of not holding their attention. I do share my messy drafts and revision notes, but I think it would be much more powerful to actually write where they can watch. Will they pay attention?

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  13. Maybe this is where I differ from most English teachers due to my background as a language teacher, but I always did every project I assigned my students, even when I taught Spanish. It gave me a model to show them the first time we did it, but it also helped me to see what the process would be like for them. So to me, it just makes sense to write if I'm going to teach them to write! I've found that my students love to see my writing, and I'm always sure to show them the messy rough draft with the all the crossed-out words and arrows; they love it! I think kids need to see that writing is messy and hard for everyone, so they don't feel so alone in their struggle.

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