Ruth Ayers wrote about why she writes in her Friday post. This led me to celebrate why I write.
I started blogging a little over a year ago, and I think it’s fair to say it has evolved. Shamefully, I have been teaching writing for ten plus years, but only writing regularly for a little over a year. In this time so much has changed in my writing and teaching life. The effect has been nothing less than profound.
My purpose in writing is part reflection on teaching, part reflection on the experience of writing. The call to write is self imposed but driven by a weekly habit of connecting with others to celebrate or share a part of my life. Without this call, this community, I know I would not go to my notebook to reflect. The community pulls me in. To put my words forth and see what comes up. My posts often don’t come out the way I anticipate, discoveries are made along the way. Which is the beauty. Working it out in a public way makes me accountable. I have to come to some resolution in the process. It has to wrap up, make sense to some degree. Before writing, my thoughts mix around in my head without end points. Without writing, my thoughts that start off shinny possibilities or troubled storm clouds, float off and disappear rarely surfacing as conscious action. With each blog post, my thoughts cycle through and in about 500 (or so) words, a resolution or next step is a bit clearer, driving me towards the next step.
Moving my reflective practice to my classroom, knowing most of us don’t take thinking journeys without a push, I ask for writing about reading on paper every two to three weeks. I “invite” students to practice the possibly of this journey of thought — to come to new realizations through writing, not to demonstrate knowledge. As a side benefit, I see where they land on a continuum of learning. Which brings me to the sticking point. A real problem. I can teach students to journey, to discover their thinking, to love books. And I can do this in ways that don’t “feel” like assessments for students. But then I assess for grades. My students know this. I can’t ignore this when the “is this a test?” query that pops up when I hand them them the paper. This leads many to hate this writing about reading. To rebel against it. Most do it because that’s what students do – what the teacher asks.
I have one student who does not, will not comply. While a reader and a writer (on electronic devices), she won’t write on paper, won’t read as we read as a community of readers. She moves to her own drummer. I love this kid and I understand her moves. I am this kid in many ways. The trouble is she isn’t on her own, accountable only to herself. She lives in a community that has expectations, the world who will continue to assess her and the classroom who depend on her contributions. She’s in a community that doesn’t always have an electronic device. That at times, has to write on paper. She battles the paper and pen. Gives three words when asked to express her thoughts. Self assesses herself as a “1” and then buries herself in a book. How much of this is can’t and how much of this is won’t. What is to her benefit, the do it because it’s “for your own good” and what might be counterproductive and hence clearly not for her good. She hates writing, on paper, for a teacher. But when asked to write about the meaning of a text in activity that is not collected, she admits, grudgingly, that her understanding is very much improved. Asked to blog she is works hard to make her meaning clear.
While my headstrong student isn’t learning disabled, her strongly held beliefs need to be accommodated for. Why not a blog post to meet the call to write about reading? And in the end, might that be an option for the more compliant souls in the classroom? I have had this thought before, as I watched some struggle in those moments of paper and pen writing. And why hadn’t I come to this end point sooner? Maybe because I hadn’t written about it.
Today I celebrate writing for reflection, writing for a community, writing for my students.
Thank you Ruth Ayers for creating a community, a call to write at Celebrate This Week. Find more celebrations and add your own here.