As the literacy coach in our district, I often get asked, “What are you reading Shell?” Anyone that knows me well knows that without much prompting I will pull my latest favorite book out of my bag. Whether it is a professional read or a book for students I am eager to accommodate. It has been my mission to give “Book Talks” wherever I go and share with whoever will listen. Always trying to convince another reader to give this new favorite a try. From Stephanie Harvey, Striving to Thrive to The Thing About Jellyfish, by Ali Benjamin, (a must read) I am ready to oblige.
Then one day when I was talking with a dear friend and colleague, she shared a very interesting story about her life. She often shares amazing stories in a voice all her own. When she finished I said to her, “You should write about that!” My friend and I often share professional and personal book selections but when I suggested that she write her story down, and she realized I was serious, she gave me a bewildered look. This appeared to be a foreign thought to her perhaps even frightening. It is a little scary even as adults, to put our own words down on the page for a reader to read.
Since this conversation, I have found additional opportunities to make this suggestion to others all with the same response. I began to wonder about the responses I had received. Then I began to think about myself, if I am given the gift of 30 minutes without an expected task at hand I often choose to read over choosing to write. I then started asking myself, “How can educators of writing not write for themselves?” I know some teachers that choose to write with students as part of their instruction, but I know very few who choose to write for themselves.
This deeper reason, for educators to write about their lives and share their stories with each other is critical. Writing and sharing narratives of our own experiences helps us understand how our lives in and outside of the classroom are shaped by our own writing identities.
Recently, after reading The Teacher-Writer: Creating Writing Groups for Personal and Professional Growth, by Dr. Christine Dawson, I asked some colleagues from my literacy coach group if they would like to try to form a writing group. With only three takers (it was summer) we set out with a Google folder to place our in-progress pieces, a plan for when drafts were due, the technology we were going to use and a date for “meeting.” As many times in life, things get in the way and one of our friends had another commitment but with just two we were still determined to give it a try. We both had chosen pieces to share that was personal and meaningful to us. As I met with my friend I didn’t realize how hard it would be to offer feedback to an adult. Often I am in classrooms and share my thoughts on how to move student writers forward at the elementary level, but I had never spent time in a similar setting with a friend and colleague. The best part of the experience is that we both have vowed to take that next step forward and begin writing for an audience. Once this first step was taken it doesn’t seem daunting it feels almost liberating. Truly for perhaps the first time in my life I identify as being a writer. A writer that writes for myself, not for a task given to me, not for work just for me. I find myself each day thinking of something else that I want to write about and actually choosing to take the time to write. It is like any new habit that first step is the hardest. My suggestion to you today is to ask those six simple words to yourself, a friend or colleague, “What are you writing about today?” that may be just the inspiration that they may need to begin their writing journey.