Sunday, June 11, 2017

Reclaiming Joy: Learning to Define Success as Personal Growth

When Gerard Dawson challenges you to write a blog post exploring the topic of teachers as writers, you write a blog post exploring the topic of teachers as writers!  But, when Gerard Dawson - high school English teacher, published author, and literacy rock star challenged me to write a blog post, I started to doubt my ability to write.

See, when you teach 3rd grade, you tend to write like a 3rd grader.  I’m a product of the world that I live in.  The professional development I attend, the books that I read, the lessons that I teach are all focused on improving the skill sets of 3rd graders.  And, while this typically serves me well, since my regular audience is 3rd graders, when it comes to blogging with the big boys (and girls), it left me feeling...well...inferior.   

Don’t get me wrong, I love the work that I do.  I adore the books that I read and the discussions that I have with my students, and I am incredibly proud of the stories that we write together.  But, while high school teachers are discussing how to use writing to show thinking, drawing from several resources to synthesize and/or process their understanding of a topic, I am teaching my students to use the writing process to develop a piece of writing by planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.  We work on the basics.

Theodore Roosevelt said it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Ain’t that the truth.

But, working on the basics also means challenging students to be brave.  We teach them that writing is an act of courage.  We empower our students to take risks head on.  We teach our young writers that everyone’s story is worth telling.  We insist that all writing is valued.  We celebrate the writing process and honor the work.  We focus on growth!

I really need to start practicing what I preach.  

This is why student-centered writing practices are so important.  Not all writers are the same and feedback should specifically address the writer- where a he/she is and where they are ready to go. Criticizing or comparing students’ writing does not improve their ability to write, it discourages them from writing at all.   

This is also why teachers as writers is such an important topic.  Writing is personal.  Writing instruction should be personal as well.   Teachers who write are able to offer lessons and feedback that are real and relatable for students.  Empathy comes from experience and writing requires a whole lot of empathy.  Writing allows teachers to embody what it means to be a writer.  The struggle is real, but so is the reward.

So, while my writing may be flawed and technically weak, I am not.  I will continue to work on improving my craft and will embrace learning from others, rather than comparing myself to them.  But, most importantly, I will continue to reflect on my progress and celebrate my growth.  

I will continue to be a writer.