Our Real Power: Authentic Writing

I have been interested in the concept of authenticity and how it applies to schools for a long time.  In my role as our building’s literacy coach, I often find myself urging teachers to “un-school” their language and their assignments.  I urge them to talk to kids about reading and writing using real-world language. I remind them that if the assignment is something they would never do as an adult reader or writer, they probably shouldn’t be asking kids to do it.  I tell them there is probably a more authentic way.  In fact, I think that if I were to someday write a book for teachers, it will probably center around authenticity in the classroom.

This past week, I read a blog post by leadership expert, Henna Inam.  In her post, she writes, “Stepping into our authenticity is stepping into our real power.”  This quote rang true to me on so many levels, one of which being the way teachers talk to kids about what it means to be a writer.  This quote explains why the Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) is so powerful to me and my district colleagues who are also participating.

Writing during the SOLSC gives us the power to transform our students’ writing lives in immeasurable ways.  When we participate in the SOLSC and share our writing with our students, we are showing them our authentic writer selves.  We are not pretending, we are not just talking, we are not assigning.  We are showing them – in the most real and authentic way – what it looks like to be a writer.

When I share my writing with students, I am sharing my real self.  I say to them:

Yes, I write about my daughters a lot and, sometimes,  I question whether that is okay.  I guess I just write about what matters most to me.

Or I’ll say: See this post?  I knew this wasn’t my best writing, but I put it out there anyway.  I didn’t feel like writing that day.  I didn’t like the way it felt to publish something I wasn’t proud of.

Or I might say: See what I did here?  I used dialogue.  I’m not sure why, it just felt right.  I guess I wanted the readers to hear Katie’s voice.

Or: Ugh.  This part right here still doesn’t sound right to me.  I can’t figure out what it is missing.  I’ve been thinking about it, revising it in my head, all night.  

This is my real power as a teacher of writing.  It is not giving them graphic organizers and story starters and drills on using quotation marks when writing dialogue.  It is sharing with my students my authentic writer self and letting each of them take away the lessons they need to grow as writers.  It showing them, in a very real way, what writers do.

It is authentic and powerful.