If You Ask Them

After lurking behind my computer screen for years, I finally decided to actually participate in March’s Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) here at the Two Writing Teachers. I wanted to try it, but I did not want to try it alone.  I was afraid of the writing (Would my writing be good enough?  I’m not a writer!), and I was afraid of the technological task of setting up a blog (How do you even do that?).  I wanted to recruit a few colleagues to try the challenge with me.  Misery loves company, right?  My goal was to convince two fellow teachers to join me.  So, I hung mysterious signs around the building, inviting my colleagues to come to a brief after-school meeting. A lot of teachers showed up, curious about this mysterious challenge.  With a deep breath, I told them what I knew of the SOLSC, and I showed them the Two Writing Teachers website.  That year, sixteen of my brave colleagues joined me in the Slice of Life Story Challenge!  Sixteen!  I couldn’t believe it.  If you ask them, they will come, I guess.
The mysterious poster

The mysterious poster

The next year, I was more confident.  I was armed with personal experience and a group of writers to stand alongside me.  My goal was to get five more teachers to participate.  This time, I made an impassioned plea at a staff meeting.  “I will help you set up a blog,” I told the sea of unsure faces.  “The writing you do each day doesn’t have to be long.  Heck, it doesn’t even have to be good.  What matters is that you write.  If you want to be a great writing teacher, you have to write. This is the one, singular thing you can do that will have the largest impact on your teaching.  It is better than any book about teaching writing that you’ll ever read.”  That year, our group doubled in size.  Thirty teachers from my school district participated in the SOLSC.  Thirty.  If you ask them, they will come.

I do not think I can adequately explain the bond that formed between us.  As one colleague and Slicer said, “Now, when I see one of you walking down the hall, I see all of your Slices floating above your head.”  We shared our stories, and it mattered. Throughout the month of March, we admired each other’s writing.  We shared in each other’s memories.  We laughed at the funny bits and cried at the heartbreak of our lives.

A small portion of our group

A small portion of our group

And, we became better teachers of writing.  We struggled with finding ideas and writing leads.  We thought about when to use dialogue and when to use third person.  We wondered how to make our titles better.  We felt the fear that every writer feels on some days: that there is just nothing left to write.  We got ideas from one another.  We learned how to comment on someone else’s writing, and we understood which comments fueled us as writers.  We figured out how adding a seemingly unimportant detail can make our readers sit up and pay attention.   We saw how important it was to write from our hearts.   We felt our students’ struggle, and we felt empathy for them.  We became better teachers because we wrote.

As we head into this new school year, it is time to start thinking about which colleague(s) you will recruit this year.  Ask one person- just one – to join you this March.  If you are a veteran Slicer, offer your help and support.  Show your colleague your own blog. Tell him or her how scared you were to try and how rewarding it has been.  If you have never participated in the SOLSC before, grab a colleague’s hand and jump in together.  Stop lurking and start writing.  It is the single most important thing you can do as a teacher of writing.  It matters.

If you ask them, they will come.  Even if it’s just one.

(For more information on the SOLSC, please click here.)