As teachers we are charged with doing just that.
And as teachers of writing, we need to get started right away.
Here is the first thing I want you to do as you prepare to begin writing work with your students this year:
Make yourself a writing notebook and do some writing. I am blogging about this first because it is the hardest thing to commit to and the one thing that will cause many teachers to throw up their hands and revert back to "tried and true" writing activities that in no way resemble authentic writing.
Listen, writing is hard. So very hard. And yet we are asking our students to write every day. We must be willing to dig deep and expose our thoughts and face that blank page ourselves if we are going to ask our students to do so. This is about the credibility and the empathy and the camaraderie that exists among a community of writers.
Follow these steps to get started:
- Choose a pretty or flashy or manly looking journal, whatever style reflects who you are. Decorate it with a picture of you and anyone or anything that means the world to you. Add a relevant quotation that speaks to your soul. Write your name on it in big, clear, important-looking letters.
- Open it to the first page.
- Pick up your pen or pencil and write the date on the top line.
- Write. (For ideas of what to write about, think of people, places, things, that have meaning in your life. Pick one and jot two or three specific details that capture a story surrounding it. Then flesh it out. Try to write 5 or 6 sentences about the experience or person or thing. You may doodle or draw to help you remember details, but remember that this is a written entry. Pictures are ancillary.
- Stop writing. You are done with your first entry. Congratulations!
Now, you need to do this every day for a week or so. You may write a few entries each day. As the week progresses, you will find the writing process to be less frightening. You will begin to feel some measure of control over that blank page. Your entries may begin to lengthen as you find your voice.
And then you need to commit to writing in your notebook every single day. Every. Single. Day. Just like you are going to require of your writing students. Only now, you will walk among them as a writer yourself.
It will change everything you thought you knew about being a teacher of writing.