Honoring Experiences

A long time ago I shifted my language from talking about “low” or “weak” writers to inexperienced writers. The shift in language is significant. It’s not about kids being good enough or capable of writing, but rather it is about gaining experience and becoming stronger writers.

At the same time, it’s about honoring the experiences they do have. Many of our students have never been out of the state. Some have never  been more than 20 miles from home. Yet they still have worthy stories to tell. They still know things they can share with others. Their opinions still matter, and their words can drive others to action.

I wonder if sometimes we face kids with drastically different life experiences than our own and then we make assumptions about how well they can write — or even if they can write.

The truth about writing is anyone can learn to write well. It is not a hobby reserved for the talented. It is not a skill reserved for the elite. Everyone, no matter their experiences, can learn to write. Not only that, it is our duty as educators to ensure we build on their experiences and help them to become stronger writers.

What makes someone a successful writer? 

They believe they can be a writer.

What makes students believe in themselves?

Often it’s because a teacher first believes in the worth of their stories (experiences). Often it’s because a teacher encourages them to own their own stories. Often it is because a teacher cares more about the child than the writing.

Here’s to honoring every child — no matter their experiences outside of school.