Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Writing Wednesdays: What I've Learned from Writing

There is a lot that I’ve learned by actually being a writer in the teaching of writing. I understand now a whole lot more about voice. I do a better job teaching creativity of the fiction writing process. I can help kids get unstuck and find a topic to write about. However, I think what writing has taught me the most is how scary it is to share our writing. Hands down, I did not get this before.

Yesterday we were wrapping up a big project in Language Arts. Typically this ends with kids looking over their writing three final times - once on their own, once with me, once with a peer. I paused as we prepared for the day’s lesson, then asked them to talk to me about sharing their writing with a peer. How did it make them feel? Some kids said they liked it, it gave them a fresh pair of eyes. Some kids were indifferent, it was just something they had to do. A large group in each class said it made them anxious. These kids rocked and told the rest of the class why: they felt judged, unsure, like their writing wasn’t good enough. The rest of the class reassured them, they just wanted to help. 

Finally, I asked, how did they think I felt about sharing my writing? They all said I probably loved it. I laughed and pulled up the photo you see below of my husband.

I explained to the kids that the night before Chris decided to read the short story I just wrote for inclusion in a romance anthology. I told them he has never read any of my fiction writing before. I shared how nervous I was when he began to read it in front of me. How I felt like I might be ill. And how awesome it felt when he liked it.

I pulled up my Voxer app and my email and showed them how my friends read my writing, giving me feedback as they go. How Karen is my friend who compliments my writing and makes me want to keep going. How Cindy is my friend who notices the small details and grammar, helping me to become a better writer as I go. 

And then I asked if they could give the peer editing a try, but told them they were in the driver’s seat here. They needed to tell their peer one or two things they wanted them to look for. I also said that it was their document, no one could edit anything without their consent. So they needed to tell their friends if they wanted them to fix typos or grammatical errors when they saw them or if they wanted them to make a list. With that in mind, I asked how they felt about peer editing. They all agreed they wanted to give it a go and it went so much better than it has before.
I sit here typing this at lunch. Each Wednesday I stay at school for lunch instead of heading to my home ¼ of a mile away to hang with my dogs. I’ve promised students that they are welcome to write in my room during lunch on one day a week. We talked originally about how writing at coffee shops inspires me. It’s the feeling of being with people, but not. Of being surrounded by others who are furiously typing away, but not trying to distract me. I wanted to give that to these kids, and so we have. Each week, more come back. They listen to music, write, brainstorm, daydream, and eat. 

It is often one of the best parts of my week.

Being a writer has changed how I teach writing, just as being a reader impacted how I teach reading. I am beyond grateful for everything I’ve learned, and continue to learn, in this profession. It certainly isn’t an easy one, but it gives back so much more than I could ever put in.