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Why Writing Teachers Really Should Write Too

teacher sharing their writing

I don't have time. I'm not a writer. The kids need to write, not me.

I've heard it all and I've said it all! I was a busy teacher who did not see the importance or purpose of writing myself or sharing it with my students. Experience as a teacher and a coach as well as lots of professional learning has made it clear that writing as a writing teacher is extremely beneficial to you, your instruction and your students.

Now, many may say that you should write every day, whether it be parallel with your students or on your own, and that is probably an excellent piece of advice. So don't tell any of my mentors that I am giving a different viewpoint. I certainly don't think you shouldn't write every day. But I am saying that I think it's ok if you don't. I believe that if you write a few times per month (at least to begin with) it will have an effect on your teaching of writers.

When I learn that only 27% of college students were classified by employers as "well-prepared" for written communication (Stewart et al., 2016) and hear from countless high school teachers that their students do not identify as writers or feel confident in their writing, it tells me that we are missing the mark with teaching writing. We need to figure out where we are going wrong and what we need to do as teachers, schools and school leaders.

Taking the time to write is a key to the answer!

Reason One: Your eyes will be opened to what your students are going through as writers.

If you were to pay attention to all of the things happening for you as you write, you will see writing for your students with a whole new perspective. When I do this, and when I have teachers try it out as well, we notice things the thoughts we have that are not about writing, the concerns we have for what to do next, the re-thinking that goes on about what to write or how to write it, the distractions we hear or feel, the need to stand up or fix our position, and so many other happenings.

This process helps us to remember that our students aren't robots, and they go through the same situations as they write. We cannot expect them to sit still and "write the whole time" each and every time they write.

Reason Two: You will discover the aspects of writing that are "behind the scenes".

If you do some writing of your own, especially if you go through the entire process of revising and editing your work, you will find that there is more to writing than what is on the page. If someone where to take your finished piece, or even your first draft, and analyze it, they may find many craft moves, techniques and even missing items. What they will not find are aspects like: how or why you chose your idea, what your planning looked like, how much you wrote at once, how you feel about your piece or parts of your piece, how you may change it, and so on.

All of those aspects of writing are extremely important for teachers to understand about their writers but are often neglected. When you are a writer yourself, you will see that everything you do, think and believe as a writer are as important as what ends up on your paper.

Reason Three: You will build a relationship with your writers.

When you share your writing with your students, it adds to your relationship. Not only will they learn more about you as a person, but you will be seen as a writer who is on a journey right alongside them. Even more important, I think, is what your willingness to share will do for those who are not. When they feel like you are almost "one of them", it will help them to be more engaged, invested and comfortable with writing.

Reason Four: Sharing your writing will make writing relevant.

Students often believe that writing has nothing to do with them or their lives. They most likely have spent their schooling (unless you teach Kinder!) having to write as an assignment that is meant for their teacher alone. When they see your writing that is for many different purposes, they will hopefully begin to change their beliefs to writing being relevant to their lives.

When you show them that writing can help you communicate when talking is difficult, to organize and process your thoughts and feelings, to persuade someone about an issue they care about and more, you will make such an impact on their "writerly lives".

Reason Five: You may actually enjoy it!

Let me change that. You WILL enjoy it!

Writing is letting go of all that is ruminating in your mind. I am always amazed at what comes out on paper when I am writing about a problem, worry or feeling, especially when I have not had one thought of what to write before my pen hits the paper. It is incredible!

When you write in a particular genre, it is likely you will find one in which you really enjoy writing. And even if you don't, you will discover so many things that happen for writers, which will assist you in your teaching.

"Writing is letting go of all that is ruminating in your mind."

I know that if you take some time to write for yourself, you will not regret it. Even if you don't become a writer tomorrow, you will for sure find benefits for your instruction, and your student writers will be all the better for it!

Not convinced? Listen in to this episode and I bet that will change!

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