What does it take to be a great teacher of writing?
Must you have read books by Ralph Fletcher, Katie Wood Ray, Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Anderson, Carl Anderson, Aimee Buckner, Matt Glover, Georgia Heard, Don Graves, Lucy Calkins, Penny Kittle, Kate Messner, Nancie Atwell, to name a few?
Must you be a Twitter regular and read and post and retweet all of the amazing information about teaching writing that one learns from being a professional in education that has and uses a Twitter account?
Must you get blog entries about teaching writing delivered to your inbox?
Must you write?
It is this last question that Kathleen Sokolowski, of the blog Two Writing Teachers, wrote about it in this recent post: Should Educators Be Writers? Please read it.
Kathleen gets us thinking about the idea that being a teacher that writes, both for him or herself AND with and for students has immense power as a teacher of writing. That teachers that see themselves as writers and actively write, keeping a writer’s notebook or a blog or who participate in teacher writing challenges, are strong teachers of writing because they experience the struggles their students have and they live the writerly life they want their students to live.
This post struck a real chord with me. I am a writer. It is easier for me to put pencil to paper or fingertips to keys. But, just like most people, finding time to write is a challenge.
If you are my polar opposite and do NOT find writing to be easy AND you can’t buy time in the waking hours to write, then this is a double whammy.
This very idea about teachers having so much on their plates and having such a hard time to make time for their own writing came up in a cause and effect sort of thing that began with Kathleen’s article being published (cause). I read it immediately, hiding in the bathroom, because when else does one ever get to do anything without being bothered (effect)? Kathleen suggested anyone interested in talking more about the notion of teachers as writers comment with their Voxer* username (cause). I signed myself up to join the conversation (effect). A Voxer conversation started (cause). An idea came to me, after great inspiration from Kathleen and all the other educator voices (effect).
I transcribed my Voxer recording. Here’s what went through my head and came out of my mouth (I took out my ummms!):
I am thinking that another issue is that teachers and people in general don’t define themselves as writers until they are published and I just think that is a big thing here. In order for people to see themselves as writers, we have to redefine what it means to be a writer and that means getting people to write.
What I like about using the sticky note to get people to write on is that it is a lot less intimidating then a whole piece of paper and so if we are trying to build within teachers this notion of writing and making it a part of our daily lives, I think that the small, less intimidating sticky note is a lot more freeing than the whole sheet of paper.
The more I think about it maybe there’s an idea brewing here. What if we start a movement with teachers? Getting teachers to write on one sticky note a day and posting what they have written about and honoring, just like we do for students, when teachers write one word, or one sentence, or even a whole paragraph, or even a whole page of sticky notes, and wouldn’t it be interesting for teachers to post their (post-it) pictures and celebrate all of that little writing, whether it’s an anecdote about a student or something they are feeling or thinking? I don’t know, I am thinking this might be a really interesting, fun idea here. What do you think guys?
And then, a hashtag on Twitter was born: #EDtime2wrt …and educators started posting their post-it writing and the rest is history.
So, what do YOU think?
Could you commit to writing once a day or once a week by filling a single post-it note? It could be the tiniest of post-its or the bigger kind or a train of post-its when you run out of room on just one.
Could you try it today? Could you put yourself out there and share your post-it note publicly or with your colleagues? Could you share it with a friend or your spouse or one student?
Could you be brave and feel like one of your student writers and feel that unease of…
What do I have to say that is worthwhile?
What if nobody likes what I write?
What if I am not good enough?
I encourage you to try this post-it note writing today and other days too. Share your post-it writing. If you do, if you take this leap as a teacher of writing you may just see a change in yourself and a change in your teaching too.
Happy writing today and every day,
PS. Are you on Twitter? If not, I wonder why not? Many say they don’t have time. I have made time for Twitter by substituting it for Facebook and Pinterest (though I still go on those sometimes, too). Twitter helps me grow as a teacher and instructional coach every single day. Like Facebook, you can hop on it for a couple minutes here and there and learn from others. There is a whole Twitterverse of educators talking about students, learning, and teaching. Maybe you could try it!
*Voxer is an app that allows you to have voice/text chats with one person or a group of people. Many educators across the world use Voxer to chat about important topics in education. You can get a free account or have a Voxer pro account for $3.99 a month or $29.99 for a year. I had the free account and just recently bought the year account.