Do any of you follow the Middle and High School Secondary ELA group on Facebook?
Now, I am not trying to pick any fights, but I’m just going to say it: Some of the comments drive me straight over a rocky cliff. Honestly, I tend to get a little snarky if I spend too much time there. (Sorry, not sorry.)
Today an ELA teacher posted “Writing sucks.” What?! I sure hope a student never hears her say that. Yesterday a teacher posted this question:
“Silent reading…have you built it into your routine? For how long? Do you find your struggling readers or non-readers (at home) love this time? I currently have built it in for the first 15 minutes since I know many of my 6th grade sts do not read at home. I think it works, but just brainstorming other ways to do things for next year. Just curious what you all do! I would be curious if HS teachers still give time to silent read, too.”
I had a hard time reading the thread with comments like “They won’t read, or forget their books… It turns into wasted time.”
Of course it does, if teachers do not establish the all out importance of reading, the benefits of reading, the time commitment to grow as readers; if teachers do not walk the talk of readers, share their reading lives, promote books and match books to kids and beat the drum of reading. Every. Single Day. We have to help students value reading.
The same holds true for writing. We have to help students value writing. We have to help students value the struggle of writing well.
Are we teacher-writers who model the difficult task of writing? Do we share the struggle of getting thoughtful ideas on the page and revising and revising and revising to convey the meaning we intend to the audience we intend? Writing well means we make intentional choices and we develop the habits of writers. Read Donald Murray’s “Habits of Writing,” and then internalize his last line: “Consider my habits of writing, but develop your own by studying what you did when the writing went well, and make what you discover your own writing habits.” (If you really want to build your writer-mojo, I suggest Murray’s books, The Essential Don Murray: Lessons from America’s Greatest Writing Teacher, and Learning by Teaching.)
We can learn to write well. We can learn to teach writing well as we discover our own writing habits and guide students into developing their own. But this will never happen if we do not write.
I’ve written about walking our talk before — and I believe it more every day. I think we owe it to our students to be actively engaged in the learning process the same way we ask them to be actively engaged. I can never be a good enough reader. I can never be a good enough writer.
So, this summer I commit to keep working on my craft. I will read. I will write.
If you are reading this post, I know I am preaching to the choir. I know you already share at least some of my beliefs about reading and writing. Thank you for that!
I invite you to share your reading and your writing, to amplify our collective voices as teachers who read and write, and walk our talk — even during the summer. Shana posted our summer posting plans yesterday. I hope you’ll join us on our Facebook page, our Instagram feed, and on Twitter. And as Austin Kleon famously asserts: Show your Work!
Let’s spread it far and wide!
Amy Rasmussen lives in north Texas and teaches AP English Language and English 4 (new prep in ’17. She loves talking books, daughters’ weddings (two this year), and grandbabies (five). She also loves facilitating PD for other teachers making the move into a workshop pedagogy. Amy adheres to the words of Emerson: “We aim above the mark to hit the mark,” and Jesus: “Love one another.” Imagine a world if we all aim higher. Follow Amy on Twitter @amyrass. And she really hopes you will follow this blog!