Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Writing must be public - educators must lead by example

I remember writing when I was young. At home I wrote silly notes to my mom, letters to friends, diary entries and the like. In school I wrote book reports, plot summaries, even a few research papers. Yet it wasn't until my senior year when my AP English teacher, Mrs. B, began giving me constructive criticism on what I'd written. I grew as a writer. I gained confidence. At graduation I won a local award, the Johnson Award, for the most improved writer. At the time it was a great honor.

In college I realized that I received the award because my writing evolved from poor to mediocre. My confidence waned. Again, another mentor saved me. Dr. N supported my journey of discovery and critical thought. We read our works aloud in class - frightening at best, terrifying at most. I struggled, I drafted, I scrapped and re-worked. I grew.

A few years ago I lost a student through suicide. As her peers, teachers and counselors gathered to grasp her loss some of us wrote. It was on the cuff, at our chairs with scrap paper, pens, and boxes of tissues our tear-blurred eyes and muddled emotions managed to come alive on paper. We were asked to share, if comfortable, what we had written or thought. I shared my poem, the first draft. Fear overcame me as I read the poem that suddenly appeared on the tear soaked page. The students stared, the counselors were silent, my colleagues nodded or looked away. The silence was a time machine. Frozen with fear I sat and waited. My mind raced but my body wouldn't move. 'What are they thinking?' 'Didn't they like it?' How do I get over this humiliation?' 'Why did I read this out loud?' After the session, one student after another asked for a copy of the poem. My reply? 'Not until I re-work it'. With a resounding "no" my students demanded the poem be left raw, flawed. That day, as mourners and writers, we understood the purpose of writing and sharing our work. Not without fear or judgement, but with the common knowledge that we all loved our "Rach" and we were confused with the empty hole in our hearts.

As a teacher I expect my students to come to that same level of fear and progress, pride and recognition. It is hard work and in my opinion must be public to achieve meta-cognitive success. Yet, as teachers we must be willing to put ourselves out on that same limb and take a chance.

There is something about publicizing thought that takes the writer to a new level of cognition during the writing process and a scary yet rewarding meta-cognitive process through the eyes and ears of an audience.

My hope is that with technology a bit of the fear is reduced; we hide behind a screen and write. Yet, with that same excitement of Meg Ryan's and Tom Hanks' characters in "You've Got Mail"; we get a rush when we see "1 comment posted".


At 8:14 AM, Blogger Karen said...


How true about writing and sharing. I have never considered myself to be verbally profound, adept at portraying my thoughts/ideas. But in the written format, I feel my thoughts flow freely, as if my hands and mind become synchronized. With the recent loss of the baby, here is what I was able to produce and convey to family members, that I could not find the words verbally to convey:

Our Precious Little One,

Our precious little one went away today,
To a place where angels dance and play.
Our beautiful baby was not yet fully grown,
But God wanted a tiny angel for His very own,
In Heaven we know we'll hold our baby near,
But for now we simply shed a heartbroken tear.
Our precious little one went away today.

At 8:26 AM, Blogger Beth McIntyre said...

Writing can heal in so many ways. There is always time, a necessary ingredient to the recipe of healing, yet somehow, when I write, I feel better. Thank you for sharing your poem. It is beautiful.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Kimberly Moritz said...

I feel the same excitement Beth, but find it hard to describe. I've been trying to explain what this blogging is all about and find them looking very perplexed. I think that's the topic of my next blog, just have to work it out. And over and over, I keep thinking that students will find that same anticipation to be motivating. If blogging encourages our students to read, to write, and to think critically--WOW! I'll take it. Great job here, keep it up!


Post a Comment

<< Home