Bringing Our Strange Selves to the Page

Day One of the TCRWP Writing Institute.  I listened to Lucy Calkins’s Keynote Address entitled “Great Expectations.”  I attended my first morning session, “We Do Not Teach Alone: Using Reading/Writing Connections to Lift the Level of Non Fiction Writing,” with Cory Gillette.  I wrote a lot in James Howe’s afternoon session “Writing from the Heart.”  Finally, I learned more about the new ELA standards a closing session, “Getting to Know the Common Core Standards,” led by in Mary Ehrenworth.  As I have done for the past few years, I’ll spend a good deal of the summer sharing what I’ve learned at the Writing Institute in this forum.  However, for today, I want to start with a few things from Lucy’s Keynote Address.

As always, Lucy’s Keynote Address was an invigorating way to start a week of learning.  She began by  defining the word kairos, which is the Greek word that means the right time; a time of great possibility or risk.  Lucy stated that because of the passage of the Common Core Standards, which put an equal emphasis on reading and writing (something which NCLB failed to do), she feels that the teaching of writing will need to be ratcheted up drastically.

We’re at a time when we, as educators, need to see hope and opportunity for our students.  We must possess a positive outlook, from the very start of the year, in order to have great expectations for our students when it comes to writing.  This can mean going so far as to preaching about living the life of a writer to your students during the first few weeks of the school year.   However, it’s more than just lip service… we have to become invested in writing ourselves.  As always, as teachers, we must lead by example, by becoming the kind of writers we want our students to be ourselves.

In order to bring students to the page, we must “call kids out of hiding.”  Lucy reminded the 1,000+ people sitting in the Nave this morning that we are all unique; it’s what makes us unique that makes us special.  Lucy asserted:

If you want to write, you have to have the courage to write from your own strange self.

I couldn’t have spoken truer words myself (had I thought of them).  What I think this means is that we have to provide the space for kids to bring their strange selves to their writing, letting them know it’s okay to write about the truth and the things that make them quirky and unique. In order to allow young writers to make meaning and appreciate all that writing has to offer, we must let them know they can and should bring themselves into their writing so that their writing holds meaning and value to them.

How do we do this?  As always, it’s about being a writer yourself.  Now that we’re at the end of June, and most of our North American readers have a little more time on their hands, consider trying to write daily this summer (if you don’t already) for just ten minutes a day.  Bring your strange self to the page.  If you do this daily, for the remainder of the summer, think of all of the amazing pieces of writing you will have that you can share with your students this fall.  In turn, they’ll see you taking the lead and will be more apt to bring themselves to the page when you ask them to do so at the start of the school year.