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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.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

16 thoughts on “Bringing Our Strange Selves to the Page Leave a comment

  1. Hi Ryan-

    I sit on the left side of Roone Arledge (when you’re looking at the screen). I’m usually in the second section of chairs, front row. I’ll be wearing a long black sundress (and probably a jean jacket) tomorrow morning. Hope to see you then!



  2. Hi Stacey,
    The keynotes just keep getting better and better and Carl Anderson had my mind spinning with learning pathways and designing units of study that are both responsive and dynamic based on the work we see writers doing in our workshops. The keynotes just keep getting better and better. Thank you for keeping all us of writing teachers ‘connected’ and I was wondering if you wanted to touch base before the keynote tomorrow at arledge. I am exhausted! – but a good tired 🙂


  3. @Grace: I will be blogging about Mary’s session later this month.
    Carl Anderson is doing Saturday’s keynote. Today is James Howe. Tuesday was Roy Peter Clark. I’ll be blogging about them all. 🙂


  4. Stacey,
    Could you talk about what Mary E. had to say re the CCS’s? I am very interested in her take. Also, what keynote is on Saturday?
    Thanks for all you have shared thus far. I love Katherine Bomer and Mary E.


  5. @Ryan: I was trying to figure out how to weave the dream quote into this post and just couldn’t find a way. Glad you mentioned it.
    I have lunch plans the rest of this week. What about meeting up prior to one of the keynotes on Friday or Saturday? LMK…


  6. Stacey,
    I thought that three other great quotes that came out of that keynote were “Shake the foundation of what we believe is possible!” – C. Booker and “If you don’t have a dream, how will you have a dream come true?” Also from Booker. Lastly “Hold onto your vision – don’t chicken out!” L. Calkins. These words were inspiring in that as teachers, we are all leaders and have the responsibility to be the change that we want to see in our schools. We have to clear ourselves of the muck and the grime that might prevent us from taking our students to new heights, we have to hold on tighty to what matters most, we have to listen to our students and tap the energies of talents of the people around us so that we are all working toward these shared goals of nurturing readers and writers who will be at it their whole lives.
    PS – I would love to get together for lunch this week to share notes and some of the learning that has come out of our sections. Can we meet?


  7. @Wanda: It’s a shame how funds are not being spent on p.d., but yet things are changing and no one is investing in the changes.
    As far as the writer’s notebook, starting it usually happens in second grade, sometimes third (depending on the developmental level of the kids).
    Certainly younger kids could try an idea notebook, something small that they use for quick jots.


  8. Stacey,
    Your sharing is so important. Attending conferences is no longer an option in my district unless I bankroll it myself. Thank you for taking them time to explain what you heard, saw, and learned so the rest of us can glean what is being said on the national level.
    My writer’s notebook is by my side and I am writing daily. There is never a plan…just what is in my heart for that day.
    At what age do you think a writer’s notebook is appropriate?


  9. Thank you, Stacey! What a treat to be a part of your institute-journey this year. I adore Lucy’s statement and find it to be completely true. True for students, true for teachers, true for me. The courage to face our strangeness is a gift of discovery and offers us (and our readers) surprise after surprise. Strange is, indeed, beautiful! I can’t wait to read about your other sessions and keynotes…you are very generous.


  10. What a fantastic conference! Just thinking about writing as social action (have just taken a critical literacy class, read the Bomer’s For a Better World and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help), and wondered about books, websites, experiences in your classrooms, etc. about getting kids to write about issues in their communities or in the world.


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