I’ve been thinking a lot about authenticity when it comes to Writing and Reading Workshops.  I’m beginning to think that a big part of authentic instruction lies in trusting students.  Today Mr. Miller showed me what it means to trust students.

We were conferring with a student and the longer we talked to him the more confused we became.  The student, H., had many pages of drafts, each with a number at the top.  At first it appeared that each page was part of one draft.  However, we soon realized that H. had many drafts, that were all jumbled together.

In the midst of the conference, I asked Mr. Miller about the line of thinking he was planning to follow.  He looked at me and said, “I have no idea . . . I’m just trying to figure out what he’s doing and let him lead the conference.”

“Good idea,” I smiled.

Mr. Miller continued talking with H., finding out about his work as a writer, and teaching into this.  As I listened, I admired Mr. Miller’s ability to trust his student and trust the process of conferring.  His approach to conferring is wise and effective.

  1. First he listens to his students talk about their writing work.
  2. Then he notices something about the work they are doing and begins questioning along this line of thinking.
  3. He compliments the work of the writer.
  4. Finally he teaches according to the personalized need of the student.

It is days like this that I’m thankful to be a coach.  I have the opportunity to learn from teachers like Tony.  He showed me what it means to trust students.  Sometimes trust involves listening a little longer.  Sometimes trust means believing that a teaching point will emerge, even in the midst of confusion.  Sometimes trust means overlooking all the other flaws to focus on the most pressing need.

What are your students and/or colleagues teaching you this week?