Workshop matters. Others have written about this topic here and here. I know this is true because I have lived this idea in my classroom since my first ISI with the Middle Tennessee Writers Project. Conferences, mentor texts, sharing ideas with others- all of these make for better writing and better writers. I have drunk the Kool-Aid, and I am fully convinced of these truths.
And I know I’m probably preaching to the choir, to be honest. But, I wanted to share something… well, something kind of weird that happened to me over the last week or so.
I’m used to taking everything that I read and discuss and watch and applying it to me classroom. The “oh, that would be good for a lesson on____” thought is never far from me. I’m not used to applying my teaching practice to my life though.
The power of workshop was made crystal clear to me this last week or so. You see, I’m getting married in a few days, and we’re not doing anything traditionally. My future brother-in-law is our officiant who is writing his own speech; we’re writing our own vows, our gifts to our bridal party are books that have been central to our relationship with something heartfelt written in the inside cover.
So. Much. Writing.
So. Much. PUBLICLY SHARED. Writing.
This realization led to a little bit of panic, but then a sense of calm. I knew what to do – the same thing we do every day in class, Pinky. We workshopped.
We sought out mentor texts. My fiance and I watched videos of other peoples vows and made lists of what worked and what didn’t work and why. As we worked through this process, I was reminded of the lists that my students make in their writers notebooks when we’re studying a mentor text: “If I want to write like this…, Then I should…”
We sought out conferences. We each wrote the bare bones of our messages to our friends and family before sharing them with each other and asking questions about development. This development and honing activity reminded me of my “like a toddler activity” for my AP students – we find our claims and then ask why, why, why until we can’t think of anything new to say. I call this going full toddler.
We read our writing out loud to each other, and I was reminded about how vulnerable and sharing your riding with another person can be – even when you’ve decided to share your life with that person. Apparently, we weren’t alone in this venture either. My 6’4” future brother-in-law – soon to be a Major in the Army brother-in-law – can’t make it through his officiant’s speech without tearing up. His writing is honest and open and vulnerable. I couldn’t make it through reading vows out loud to just myself without tearing up just a little. This exercise reminds me that even our academic writing can still be a vulnerable moment for students and that moment deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. I need to remember that I’m helping/guiding/teaching not just the writing but the writer.
We’re on Fall Break this week. Given this glimpse of the writer’s workshop from the inside, being reminded of how it feels to be the student writer makes me excited to get back to the classroom as a more empathetic fellow workshopper.
I guess this is just one more example of that teacher phenomenon: everything we do we we link back to our classrooms. Apparently, even wedding vows.
Sarah Morris teaches AP English Language & Composition and Film as Literature in Murfreesboro, Tn. She is rereading Beartown – can’t recommend it highly enough. She tweets at @marahsorris_cms.