Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why I Write

November 20, 2011 changed everything for me as an educator. That was the date I uploaded my first blog post to this blog. With it, I began my writing life. 


For the fourteen years before, I was a teacher who "taught" writing, but wasn't a writer myself. I could teach how to write a narrative, write an essay, keep a journal. Yet, when my students struggled, I didn't know why. When they stared at the blank page, I grew frustrated. When they complained about writers block, I was confused. I did not live the lives they did, and I couldn't meet them where they were. 

I wasn't a writer. 

I hadn't been for years. I wrote during my school career, of course, but not for joy. I wrote in elementary school what my teachers assigned. Ditto for junior high and high school. At one point I had aspirations of writing, but getting a paper back dripping in red ink, I decided it must not be where my strength resided. 

It was NCTE in 2011 that changed me. One night in Chicago I sat talking to Colby Sharp - someone I now consider a close friend, but a new friend at the time. I still remember him asking me what I was taking away from the conference. I paused and said that I realized I was a good reading teacher because I was a teacher who read. I could connect to my students through books. I could talk to them as reader to reader, but I couldn't do that through writing. I realized it wasn't the kids who had to change, it was me. 

That statement to Colby terrified me. I drove home from Chicago wondering if I could do it. Beginning writing on my own was scary enough, but I had also vowed to begin a blog. I knew if I didn't make my writing "public", I'd never keep it up. Also, I figured that writing about my classroom would help connect me to other teachers and through them, I could learn even more. I could never have imaged how true that would be.

Today I shared what blogging will look like in our middle school classroom with my students. I talked about why we will blog, what the purpose is for our classroom. But more than that, I talked about why I write. How it helps me to make sense of my feelings, to make sense of the world. Writing makes me whole. I am a better person because I became a writer almost five years ago. My only regret is that I waited so long. 

That's why I write.