As I was cleaning out my email inbox recently, I stumbled across some posts from blogs I follow. Two Writing Teachers had a reflective post about a student conference held at the end of the last school year. They learned that the most important aspect of the student writers’ confidence as writer stemmed from the fact that their teacher writes with them. Their justification ranged from the fact that the teacher set the bar high for them to the concept that the teacher provided inspiration, made them feel as if she were part of their community of learning, and validation that the assignment was not just an assignment for the sake of assigning.
As teachers are beginning the year with their students and establishing their classrooms as communities of learners, I want to encourage folks to do the same. I know that students in my classroom always appreciated the fact that I made the effort to write to the same assignments I posted for them. They were curious and inspired by things I wrote. They were pleased to offer suggestions to me for improving my writing. I heard those very same comments from students as Two Writing Teachers.
I love to write and it helps to clarify my thinking and makes my mindset far more positive when I write. I began writing with my students as a result of sitting in a workshop facilitated by Kelly Gallagher about 15-20 years ago. I left the workshop and went to the bookstore and bought his book, Teaching Adolescent Writers. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and annotated in the margins. It is full of sticky notes marking important concepts to share with students and teachers. It still is a valuable resource as I work with teachers who are teaching young writers. I later added many more of his books.
Years later, when attending a conference, I sat in on a workshop facilitated by Penny Kittle. Again, I headed for the bookstore after the workshop and bought Write Beside Them: Risk, Voice, and Clarity in High School Writing. Once again, I also added several more of her books to my collection and both sets are some I will never be able to part with so long as I consider myself a teacher!
Even though I already wrote with my students and often used my work to model expectations or as an example when sharing a mini-lesson for grammar or craft, it was reaffirmed that I needed to continue the practice of writing along with them. Sometimes I even found that my assignment needed a bit of tweaking or revision after attempting it!
So, as you begin your school year, please set aside time and make the effort to write along with your students. The benefits are multi-fold!