Slice of Life Tuesday -Striving For Authenticity

The challenge for those of us who are teachers of writing is how do we maintain our authenticity? How do we ensure that the words we speak in the name of writing are enacted in our deeds? How do our actions and beliefs about writing influence our student writers?

I am a reader and a writer. The things I do as both reader and writer are at the core of my teaching. I believe I cannot ask students to embark on learning tasks I have not experienced myself. If I want  students to adopt writing as a meaningful part of their learning, I need to demonstrate the intrinsic value of being someone who chooses to read and write.  I can show them how writing can be a way of solving problems. I need to be the embodiment of a positive model for these literacy siblings. Such actions provide confidence for students. They know that where they are going as writers is a path I, as a teacher, have already been down and continue to travel. I am blazing a trail and inviting them to join me.

If I ask student writers to step through the processes of writing without having experienced this myself, then my teaching lacks authenticity. The only way to develop this critical credibility is to demonstrate aspects of the writing craft openly with the young writers I teach. I become an authentic risk taker and my students begin to adopt an altogether different view of me and the messages I am trying to deliver. This very act takes a degree of courage. I am admitting a degree of vulnerability. I am also demonstrating to students a fair degree of trust. Writing can be tough work. It can be a challenge. Equally it can be a delight. Sometimes the words flow freely and sometimes you have to almost push them out and onto the page.  This understanding needs to be shared with young writers. When revealed, an awareness of writing’s great challenge is shared. It is about the realities of writing. If I do these things my practice remains authentic.

It will come as little surprise to teachers to be told how closely students observe their every action. For this reason children need to hang around a teacher who demonstrates clearly that reading and writing are essential to living a literate life. It is further proof of ‘showing, not just telling.’ I try to reinforce these messages every time I enter a classroom. If I consistently act this out, eventually –shift happens!

Student writers will respect these actions and revelations. They need to be surrounded by adults who are living examples of readers and writers. -Readers and writers willing to demonstrate their thinking, planning, drawing, writing, revising, editing, and publishing processes in mindful ways.  Our literate lives provide a cue for our students. This is where authenticity dwells. To quote the late, great Donald Graves, ‘When teachers have authentic voices, their students have them too.’  


  1. If only all teachers would adopt this attitude, "I am blazing a trail and inviting them to join me." That is why I started writing. I'm looking forward to reading your book. :-)

  2. When I was in the classroom, I couldn't imagine not sharing the assignments with them. All through the years, they could see that I was learning too. Great post, Alan. I wish...

  3. When you are writing with your students, you are really taking a risk.Your words express this so well "become an authentic risk taker." I try to be this risk taker as I write and read with my students. I am often wondering, how come more teachers are not writing with their students--especially middle and high school teachers. Definitely a post to come back to.


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