Last spring, I resigned from the wonderful school district where I had been teaching for the past fourteen years. Change was in the air, and I accepted a job as an instructional coach in a new district. As I recently unpacked my boxes and moved into my new space, I thought about all I had learned from my former district. I learned a lot about teaching and literacy instruction. A lot. However, the most important thing I learned was this: relationships matter.
Fortunately, my new school district also knows relationships matter. As a matter of fact, in an effort to build strong relationships, they instituted a “Significant 72” policy. Significant 72 refers to the first 72 hours of the school year, or the first three days. During this time, the focus is on building relationships; there is little to no emphasis on academics. Instructional time is devoted to building the classroom and school community and getting to know one another. Isn’t that a lovely way to start the school year?
Relationships matter, and nowhere is this truth more important than in writing workshop. Writing partnerships, peer feedback groups, one-on-one conferences, share time… relationships are everything in writing workshop. If I could turn back time to when I was in my own classroom, I would have spent a significant amount of time building relationships before I ever attempted the first unit of study. If I could have some do-overs as a literacy coach, I would focus first on the relationships within a classroom and then on the components of writing workshop. You really can’t have a strong writing workshop without strong relationships.
Time and time again I have seen people form relationships by writing together. I saw it happen during Family Writing Night when our parents and students wrote together. I saw it happen when over forty teachers from my district joined the Slice of Life Writing Challenge last March. I saw it happen when we taught students to thoughtfully comment on each other’s writing.
Writing builds relationships.
It’s the old chicken and an egg conundrum. I don’t know which comes first, but I know you can’t have one without the other.
As you prepare for your first days of writing workshop, think of how you will build relationships with and between your students. Can you insert some team building exercises into your day? Do you have a favorite picture book to share… just because you love it? Are you smiling? Are they?
Writing workshop thrives on relationships and builds them at the same time. Be intentional as you plan the first days and weeks of your writing workshop. Make room for relationship building. Relationships matter.