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.