Slice of Life Day 28: Hearing Student Voices

During the month of March I am blogging daily with others in the Slice of Life Daily Challenge. Thank you  TaraAnnaDanaStacey,  Betsy  and Beth at Two Writing Teachers for providing and supporting this place to learn and grow. Read more slices here.

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Today. What to write? Lots of thoughts. Overloaded brain. Things aren’t completely thought out. I may misspeak. That’s a difficult place to be when you are putting your words into the world. It happens. Just keep writing. That is the goal I told my students. That is your goal for today. So that’s what I’m telling myself on day 28 of the March Slice of Life Challenge.

Write don’t stop. Just write. It’s about fluency, I tell my students and myself. You must be fearless when you know someone might judge your writing. When students write they are judged. They are assessed as to what they need as a writer. What a vulnerable place to be. If someone was out there taking notes on my writing, categorizing my needs as a writer, designing a teaching point for me, would I feel good or bad about this? What would make me feel privileged to get their input. What would make me feel less than and want to hide and never write another word.

I remember one time when I was in a Teachers College workshop with Colleen Cruz, I was stuck. She walked up to me asked me a simple question. With my answer I knew where to go next.  It was magic. She just asked a question and opened my eyes to what was right there. I just wasn’t looking.  I’ll never forget that feeling. It was empowering. Nothing about it made me feel less than. It made me realize what I needed to reach for as a writer and a teacher of writing.

That magic aha moment is hard to give to students. What I am starting to see though, after years of doing this work, is that my mission is to nudge writers, ever so slightly in the direction that they are leaning that approximates forward. Pushing too hard will just result in a fall.

Hearing  what student writers are saying has taken time. Hearing what they are saying versus  hearing my thinking of where I’m trying to take them, is my challenge. What they think and say makes sense, perfect sense to them. Just like understanding phonetic writing, a teacher’s ear needs to be fine tuned to the nuance of what they say and see and how it relates to what they are attempting to do. With that understanding, I can nudge them on from where they are sitting. It takes patience and time of both teacher and  student. I’m just acquiring the ear for this work. Student voices seep in  when I stop myself  and just listen to what they are saying. Then I have the huge aha moment.

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You my dear readers have put up with my meanderings over the last 26 days. Thank you. I do appreciate it. To those who continue to visit and take the time to comment. I can only hope I give back a little of what you all have given to  me.

A few slices ago I mentioned a podcast I was doing on twitter and blogging. if you have the time check this out. Listen for my lovely student voices. Unfortunately there isn’t enough of them in this podcast.

 

6 thoughts on “Slice of Life Day 28: Hearing Student Voices

  1. I understand that struggle to really hear and not judge based on your preconceived ideas of where they should be. A constant struggle, I think. It is necessary for us to nudge them forward. Sometimes this happens without you really noticing. Then one day, you see the fruits or maybe not this year. The other day I overheard a student say to another student, “I can write about anything!” Isn’t that wonderful? The freedom, the confidence. That is what SOLC is all about.

  2. I love every thought you express. This is the role we need to take with kids, we are not the judge and jury of their writing. Just a slight nudge changes everything.

  3. “Student voices seep in when I stop myself and just listen to what they are saying. Then I have the huge aha moment.” I love this! So often we come to the conference with pre-set ideas about what we want this student to learn, our teaching point, and that means we don’t really listen to the kid – we’re just listening to our teaching voice saying: he needs to learn this or that move. Wise reminder, Julieanne, and beautifully put!

  4. This is so great. I found myself totally drawn to the “hearing” part.
    “Hearing what student writers are saying has taken time. Hearing what they are saying versus hearing my thinking of where I’m trying to take them, is my challenge. What they think and say makes sense, perfect sense to them”
    It does. Does it always make sense to the reader is the challenge? Seems like you have a firm grasp on how to keep trying to make them better. Kudos to you.

  5. “. . .a teacher’s ear needs to be fine tuned to the nuance of what they say and see and how it relates to what they are attempting to do.” This is so critical and your posts demonstrate that you are masterful at listening to your students!

    Thanks for sharing your podcast and I so appreciate your willingness to share your thinking and your writing with ALL of us!

  6. Thank you, Julieanne, for this insightful post into the importance of listening to what our students are trying to tell us. It’s critical for us to be in tune to both their verbal and non-verbal signals. By the way, I can completely relate to your opening paragraph! I’m sitting here writing in circles about an idea that just won’t come together. I’ll take your advice, though, and just keep writing.

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