Little Known Factors that Can Make A Huge Impact
1. Put Your Ego in Check
Yes, you are the adult. Yes, you are a trained professional. BUT, your student is still the writer. They do not have to take your suggestion no matter how much older you are. This applies to kindergarteners thru adult learners. You respect them and they respect you. It is a give and take relationship.
I see so many little people writers by third grade who are terrified to go outside of directions. Some seem to have lost their ability to be creative for the sake of doing what is expected. Please do not take your students’ creativity away. If you have to segment a time slot for the wild abandon of student writing to happen to keep your own brain in check — DO IT. Sometimes it is ok to not know what is going to happen. If you want students to take risks and be vulnerable in their writing you have to make space for it.
2. Be A Writer Yourself
To teach writing, you must write. I do not mean every day or that you have to be published. Although, I will say there is a growing group of us who are doing just that! Let me say it again — YOU HAVE TO WRITE.
Think about it this way: Do you take teaching advice from a non-teacher? No. You don’t. You may listen but I am sure your eyes roll so hard I can hear them in Indiana. There are some principals that have little teaching experience that I have seen teachers blatantly ignore because they didn't think he/she had the knowledge base.
I have worked in buildings where your professional integrity was worth more than anything. It was about teacher knowledge and there were conversations about pedagogy and practice and reflection. It was an amazing building to work in. Teachers are better when they have experience and know what they are talking about!
Write in front of your students. Share your thinking as you are writing with them. Tell them where you are having trouble. You tell them and they will tell you. Your minilessons will thank me. It is much easier to give your little writers what they need if you know where they are having issues.
It also helps to be part of a writing community. There is a great group called #teachwrite you can follow on Twitter. There are newsletters and groups and Twitter chats. Join in and find some fellow writers. You can form a group at school of other teachers who want to be better writing teachers. You can form a FB group or an email group.
3. Be a Learning Machine
I love this phrase. You must continue to learn — usually, we call this professional development which is honestly hit or miss to whether we learn or not. Sometimes it is the presentation, and sometimes it is us, and sometimes it is both.
Write in a journal. Write in response to a quote or picture. Make a cartoon. Take a free class online. Take a paid writing class online. Give yourself silly assignments or prompts. Teachwrite provides a daily word to write with you can get. Email me and I will send you a prompt!
Being a learner helps you remember what it is like to learn something new. Whether we are 5 or 50 new learning is new learning — age doesn't matter in this case. Productive struggle in your own writing can help you guide another writer.
I am currently in a flash fiction writing class. I love it because I have daily assignments for 2 weeks with a respected instructor in real time. I also get feedback from the teacher and other students that is all positive in nature every day. There is also a potential for connections with new writers I would have not met otherwise.
So how does this non-education class help me be a better writing teacher?
- I can use the prompts with students later.
- I can learn new ideas about feedback that is positive and constructive.
- I can use my own struggle with what to write to conference with students.
- I will have 10 mentor texts to show students in various draft forms.
- And best of all? It makes happy!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic!
Tammy Breitweiser is a writer and teacher who is a force of nature and woman of honor; seer of nuance; an accidental inspirationalist; a keeper of the little red doors, and a conjurer of everyday magic who is busy writing short stories. A future Minnesotan temporarily hiding in Indiana, her poetry has been published in The Storyteller Magazine and her flash fiction in The Ninja Writers Monthly and Elephants Never. Her essay is published in the I Wrote it Anyway anthology. You can also connect with Tammy through Twitter @TLBREIT.