I knew it. I should have blogged right away. After preaching the value of blogging and insisting participants in my Inspiring Reluctant Writers session capture their reflections, I let the moment, and the memory, go. I knew I would benefit from reflecting on the day, but Busy, that pushy partner I heed, made other plans.
Once time has passed, those snapshots of memory morph, the colour fades and distilled thoughts evaporate.
I do remember the way I felt, as if being pulled in opposite directions. I recall the highs of hearing teachers’ stories of the impact that live writing was making on their students, how in awakening their writing muse, they’ve found themselves nostalgic for the writing they ‘used to do.’ I also remember the lows of recognizing I haven’t engaged everyone in the group, how I struggle with the pacing of professional learning across a whole day.
Just below the surface, I’ve wrestled with a lingering knot that I’m trying to untie, a lesson I thought I’d learned:
the one who’s doing the talking is the one who’s doing the learning.
In a court of law, I could readily explain why. I want to inspire and provide a variety of texts, model a few strategies, craft a couple writing moves. Writing takes time, space, community, ideas. You can’t just walk in and write cold. I hold true that teachers engaged in writing will help them teach writing. I try to balance what I’ll call ‘heavyweight’ independent writing (around identity, the story of your name, where you’re from) and ‘lightweight’ collaborative writing (6 Things You Should Know About _______). When we write, we learn the struggles of being a writer and are more likely to be empathetic to the writing we ask our students to create. When we write, the lessons we learn personally feed into how we teach writing and that makes it authentic.
But that doesn’t excuse me from doing most of the talking.
I stand gazing up at two towering goals.
- to create the conditions where teachers feel safe and empowered to write themselves.
- to support teachers’ instructional practice so they effectively teach students better ways to write.
I grapple with the time writing demands and the time required to imagine its application in a writing workshop. No quick fix. All teachers want things we can implement tomorrow, along with ideas that will percolate over time.
So, I am facing the dilemma of what’s the next step. Where might we go in the coming session that will benefit these teachers as writers and teachers of writing? If I were in a classroom, all the complexity and excitement of the talk, the reading, the writing, would drive the next lesson.
Maybe we will start there. Start with some time to talk, some time to read each others’ writing and student writing to determine our own personal learning needs. We’ll ask ourselves and each other: what am I seeing in this writing that could be improved and how might I get there? A real writer’s roundtable. We can share the responsibility of what we’ll learn and rely on each other for steps to move forward. Together.