When I was learning the ropes of teaching, Tammy Hess helped me along. We stumbled into a study group for teachers of writing through the All-Write Consortium. We weren’t sure what it was all about, but they offered great food, soothed us with read alouds, and encouraged us to reflect on our lives and our teaching. Even though we were a bit hazy about the writing workshop philosophy, we continuted to attend each month until the end of the year. That summer we went to a 5 day workshop hosted by the All-Write Consortium about beginning writing workshop. It changed my teaching. It changed Tammy’s teaching. And more importantly, it changed us. We became writers.
Tammy named her writer’s notebook Clay Fragments. She said it was fragments of her life that could be molded like clay. Today she told me she began Volume 9 of Clay Fragments. I was thinking about how my writer’s notebooks are piling up around me too. Tammy shared her nine volumes with her students; as well as her collection of published pieces.
Gooseflesh appeared on my arms as Tammy shared how she started her year. What powerful teaching. Tammy shared her volumes of writer’s notebooks with her students. She shared her collections of published pieces. Then she put them between bookends on her desk and offered an open invitation for students to page through her musings. Then she showed them Volume 9. Her message was that of one writer to another: I’ve been writing for years and I’m excited to write with you and find what I’ll discover this year. Some of her students have been in writing workshops for more than 5 years. I hope her message resonated inside of them.
Our students need to see first hand that a person can write for years and years and still develop new ideas. So often they see a teacher write with them for a single year — and then what does that teacher do? Perhaps, we just reteach the same lessons, use the same writer’s notebook entries, share the same published pieces year after year after year. I know I’ve done that. And it’s okay — often times life takes us on a ride and we don’t have time to write a new memoir or a new editorial. That’s why Tammy’s volumes of Clay Fragments inspire me. Even if she doesn’t have time to publish something new each unit, she still keeps a writer’s notebook alongside her students.
She is a true writer. Her students are blessed that she shares with them. And I am blessed that she shares with me.