What does it mean to be a writer?
It means the words that come flowing out of your pen are driven by your heart.
It means that you have a message, a story that matters.
It means that you value communication and though it may be seemingly a one-way street when you publish, you yearn for that communication as a result of your writing.
You value ideas, because isn’t all writing about ideas?
You push that publish button and your heart beats a little faster as you’ve given a little of your heart to the world.
You hope that they understand and value your message, your story.
How do I know this? Because I write.
In chapter three of Jennifer Allen’s book, Becoming a Literacy Leader, she talks about that moment that all literacy leaders worry they will find themselves in…the moment when you are standing in front of your colleagues, wanting to lead them to all that they are capable of, but your presentation is met with silence, lack of engagement, and withdrawal. I know this feeling. I’ve been there.
I love the rawness of this confession by Jennifer and I love her push to not give up after months of trying to move writing instruction forward in her building. She did not give up. She discovered the secret.
You become a better writing teacher by writing. She had not been asking her teachers to write.
After months of seemingly failed attempts at changing writing instruction, Jennifer began to ask her staff to write, write stories that meant something to them. They then used the stories to practice revision practices. It was after that moment that the staff began to talk about writing in the hallways. They began to share their stories. The staff began to implement those revision strategies in the classroom. It was after that, that student writing began to change.
To be a teacher of writing and really know it, you have to write.
You have to know the heart that goes into it, the struggle, the thinking, the questioning, the courage that it takes to communicate a message that matters. This is what we ask our kids to do. It goes way beyond teaching an engaging introduction or having effective transitions. Those are the standards, not the writer. Not the heart of the writer. Not the courage of the writer.
To be an effective teacher of writing, you have to know the writer. Be the writer.