How has your instruction been impacted by being a Writer?
In that wonderful way of kismet, the question included in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life post was a segue from a conversation I had with one of my second graders at the end of the day. I was taking photos of my bulletin board and he asked me why.
“Because I plan to write about our work today, and I want to remember the good thinking you added to the board.”
“You’re writing about us?”
“Yes. I write about our class all the time.”
“Why?” He was incredulous.
“Well, for a few reasons. One, because you guys are so smart and thoughtful, I think people would like to hear about you. And also, writing about our work helps me think carefully about our wok.”
“Oh.” And off he went. His incredulity cured, he took my explanation as reasonable. After he got his backpack and put his chair up on his desk, he turned to me again. “So, Mrs. L.A., you’re a writer too, just like us.”
“Yes I am, Evan. Yes I am.”
It has taken me a long time to call myself a writer. I tell my students that a writer is someone who writes, and I believe that they are, in fact, writers. I call them writers all the time. But I almost never call myself a writer. In the grown up world, I long held that moniker aside for published authors, those who came up on Amazon searches or popped up in academic journals.
It was about a year ago that I blushed as my husband described me to someone as a writer.
I write every day. Most of my work stays quietly on my laptop. Some of it is posted here and shared. Some I post to my Corner Classroom blog where I focus more directly on teaching and learning. I even write a weekly blog for my local newspaper. But when someone asks me about myself I say I am a teacher. I almost never say writer.
It’s a question of confidence, I think.
Being a writer helps me to be a teacher. First and foremost, writing about my work makes me more reflective. I think on paper – What worked? Why didn’t this work? What can I do to support my ELL students in this? What is the end goal? I think of the big ideas like “What is the purpose of education?” and the little ideas like “How can I make my morning routine more efficient?” and every idea in between.
I also gain empathy through writing. Not only do I know how hard it is to string words together to make an interesting story, I know also how scary it is to share your story with others. I know how to gently push students into reading their work aloud, and I know when to quietly collect the notebook. I’ve been there. I know how they feel.
Being a writer has made me a better reader. I notice things in books, the techniques the authors employ, the decisions that had to be made to organize a story or an essay. And, I’m beginning to use my improved reading skills to help support my young readers. It’s helpful to think about what the author describes in detail and what she leaves for our imaginations. You learn how to gather good evidence from a text to support your opinion.
If I have time tonight after grading the final Math test, I’ll be writing about the work I mentioned to Evan earlier today. I know if I don’t get to it today, though, I’ll be writing sometime this week. Because, I’m a writer, and that’s what I do.