Powerful Practice in Teaching Writing
POWERFUL Practice in Writing
At this challenging time across the world, from the relative safety of home, I have had more time to reflect upon my writing process and its capacity to inform my teaching and learning. This week, I am happily revisiting the notion of teacher influence…
I remain very aware of the influence a teacher’s own writing has on impressionable students. Some teachers believe they have little actual power when it comes to the attitudes of young learners. The reality is, teachers control the very climate in the classroom. I frequently find myself invoking this quote from educator, Haim Ginott.
‘I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.’
So, when a teacher presents to students as a fellow writer, the children’s world view of writing is challenged. Something quite magical begins to take place in the classroom. The teacher begins to learn progressively better ways to write and from that, teach.
As a result the inexperienced writer receives quite clear demonstrations regarding how writing possesses a power to entertain, inform, persuade, provoke, and comfort depending on the writer’s intent. The young writer also benefits from observing the various processes undertaken by a more experienced and proficient writer. There is so much to be gained from this.
While rummaging through some old notebooks last week, my eyes fell upon this entry:
'What are we teaching our students about writing, if it isn't what actual writers do?'
This quote goes directly to the heart of authentic practice! What can less experienced writers learn from the processes employed by these experienced writers? This is curriculum fodder centred on how meaningful writing outcomes are accomplished.
The eternal question –why do we write? No doubt passes through a child’s mind at some point. Particularly those children who grow up in homes where no one ever chooses to engage in the act of writing. This only increases the need for teachers to be viewed as living breathing advocates and participants in the literates acts of reading and writing. The literate lives of teachers need to be highly visible and celebrated acts.
Reflect for a moment upon your current writing practices and what impact such practices might have on the attitudes of impressionable student writers.
Across the years I have mindfully shared my many processes with students and teachers:
Where I get my ideas
How I choose a notebook
How I gather notebook entries
How I identify a personal writing project
How I overcome writing roadblocks
How I use re-reading
Where I choose to write
When I choose to write
How I consider my audience of readers
How reading informs my writing
How other writers inform my writing
How I employ my senses
How I distance myself from the writing in order to see it clearly
How I mindfully use writing craft
Why I persist
We must go to the source of writing in order to most effectively teach it. It seems to me, attitude and ultimately engagement, dwell here.