Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Writing In Front of My Students

Just five years ago, I wasn't a writer. Sure, I'd write a narrative if I asked my students to write one, but that was it. I didn't identify as a writer. I certainly didn't write - journaling or otherwise - on a regular basis. I didn't see the issue with that either. And then, I thought about it. I was a good reading teacher because I was a reader, because I knew how to talk to kids when they were stuck, when they finished an amazing book, when they couldn't get into a book. So, I asked myself, how was I helping them as writers? I couldn't avoid it anymore. I began writing and thus this blog was born.

Writing in front of my students didn't come until midway through that first year of blogging. When I read Penny Kittle's book, Write Beside Them. It was powerful. They could see my writing. How it was imperfect, like their writing was. It gave them confidence to try themselves. It taught me a lot too. 

This week I am wrapping up our first unit in ELA - Learning to Live Like Readers and Writers. I've taught them a lot about picking books, finding time to write, finding topics to write about, etc. We have also done a lot of work on socio-emotional growth. Talking about how we treat others and ourselves. On Tuesday I shared Trudy Ludwig's The Invisible Boy and also this video I found a year or so ago:

After watching it, we did a quick write about whatever the book and video inspired in us. I wrote about Wonder and what it means to "choose kind." 

Whoa. It was in writing during the first class, and the second, and the third, that I came to a realization about myself. I write in my journal under the document camera while the kids do as well. I starred my new thinking and when we finished, I shared what I learned with my first class. I am a kind person, but the quote from Wonder made me realize that I often choose right before kind in my mind. When I know I am "right" about something, I get irritated. I'm still outwardly kind, but inside I'm frustrated because I'm right - or at least I believe I am. I told that first class that I was just realizing the time I was wasting worrying about my rightness, for lack of a better term. Through the second class and third class I wrote more about it, sharing with my students.

Their reactions were fascinating to me. Some of them came up to tell me that they still thought I was super kind. I thanked them. Some came up to tell me what they learned about themselves. We learned that we are all imperfect, including their teacher, and that's ok. We can work to be better.

Writing in front of my students is hard. You are vulnerable. But I wouldn't give it up for anything. I learn something about myself each time I do it. My students learn about me. And we continue to grow closer as our year unfolds. I highly recommend you try it today.