I am a Teacher Writer

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for sponsoring the Slice of Life Challenge every Tuesday.


The workshop approach to reading and writing is as second nature to me as anything else I do as a teacher. It’s not perfect. In fact, I would never want it to be. Nevertheless, it feels familiar despite the many revisions and adaptations I’ve made to it over the years. It provides an invaluable routine for productive reading and writing habits to develop and for joyful learning to flourish. I have been teaching this way since my second year as a teacher when I happened to come across Donald Graves’ seminal work – Writing: Teachers and Children at Work. At about the same time I was becoming familiar with the writing process, I was attending professional learning sessions at the Writing Project at UC Berkeley and later that summer I participated in an urban teacher cohort that studied children’s writing in the classroom, also as part of the Writing Project.

Years later, I am still that writing teacher that believes in the importance of “writing my way through meaning” and in sharing this passion with my students. I reject “prompt writing” or the “creative-writing-on-Fridays” approach as the only writing kids do. I have rebelled against the imposed rigidity of packaged units of study, particularly without a deep understanding of the workshop approach and have argued that canned programs are not good for kids and teachers.

And, I am a teacher writer myself, even if it’s hard to say it, much less to write it. But the more I say it, the less false it seems. So, here it goes –

I am a teacher writer.

Yet, and still, I let the inaccurate perceptions of others cloud my own studied ideas about teaching and learning. I get distracted by uninformed nay sayers, innocent or otherwise. Some days are harder than others for staying the course. I flinch when I see my students’ reaction to my version of “tightening up” in response to self-doubt.

There are no simple solutions. There are ebbs and flows all the time. Like most teachers, I am incredibly hard on myself. If something is not going well, I dwell on the negative rather than celebrating the positive. I don’t give myself enough credit for the great things happening in my classroom because I’m self-conscious about doing so; it feels like I’m tooting my own horn. But would that be such a bad thing?

I am aware that not paying attention to and documenting the ways in which I create a classroom culture conducive to joyful learning means I can easily fall through the rabbit hole of others’ perceptions and lose sight of the techniques and strategies that make what I do in the classroom work for my students and for me. This awareness is making me more determined than ever to intentionally notice and name what I do to make my classroom a happy, energetic learning space for my students.




11 thoughts on “I am a Teacher Writer

  1. and getting them to join you in the process, which can flip those canned conventions. More than just sometimes, what a class likes best in a semester will come as a surprise — and sometimes even be something they started out not liking. Surprise each other.


  2. It’s complicated when you are a teacher writer because you literally live on both sides of the line and it’s not comfortable. That “discomfort” is a part of your ebb and flow. You are right to notice and name it. Put less pressure on yourself. This is a battle you are winning.

    So much to love in your post. This I want to hold onto this morning . . . “Yet, and still, I let the inaccurate perceptions of others cloud my own studied ideas about teaching and learning. I get distracted by uninformed nay sayers, innocent or otherwise. Some days are harder than others for staying the course. I flinch when I see my students’ reaction to my version of “tightening up” in response to self-doubt.”

    Each day is a new day. Keep moving forward and you will be fine because you are a teacher writer!


    • Thanks for your wise words, Fran. I do feel like it’s a battle I’m winning even when I take a baby step forward or backwards, I know the path I need to take. And, I will forge ahead because I know it’s the right thing to do and because my PLN sustains me to do so. Thanks for commenting.


  3. mrsday75 says:

    I think the best thing I did as a teacher of writers was to write with them. I showed them my notebooks, wrote on the board as they wrote, used some of my writing as mentor texts, shared my blog posts with them. What this all did was let them know when I sit down with them that I know the struggles they have as they write.


    • This is great advice. I always see a huge shift when I share my writing with students. Talking about struggles is one thing, but actually showing what that looks like, even for their teacher, is a huge game changer for kids. Thanks for commenting.


  4. Gracias, Elisa, for sharing your story. I wish most teachers were as reflective and self-examining as you are; green and growing, or ripe and rotting. Over these many years, the pressures have been tremendous and many of the ideas coming down on us have seemed like a vast, poorly designed experiment on children. Your students are lucky to have someone as intelligent, dedicated and caring as you to buffer them as much as possible from ill-conceived and sometimes almost abusive practices. Never doubt yourself, amiga!


  5. I understand how difficult it is to say, I am a writer. I applaud you to stay the course and do what is best for kids learning to write. In a couple of weeks I am introducing writing workshop to some teachers on their PD day. I know that I have to get them to understand that they need to write alongside their students. This is the toughest part, but it is the most worthwhile work they will do.


    • Agreed, Elsie. Helping teachers think of themselves as writers is a hard battle to fight, but worth it all the way. Not only will they be better teachers of writing to their students, but they will discover things they didn’t know were possible. That is definitely true in my case. Thanks for commenting.


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