During the last week of school, I met with a group of fourth graders to have an end of the year reflective conversation. We can learn so much about what to do throughout they year by asking students to reflect and share what they found to be powerful. Many times, students are our very best resource for knowing how to become better educators.
I asked them a series of questions, and we had a whole class conversation. On of my questions was:
“What makes you feel like writers in this classroom?”
I put it the question on a piece of paper in front of them, and many of them had ideas. Because my job spans grades, I’ve known many of these students for several years, so I have watched them grow, evolve, and develop as writers. Trust me when I say that some of them would never have said they were writers until this year. Some of them didn’t like writing until this year. Some of them did what they could to avoid writing until this year. Therefore, I really wanted to know what made the difference in their classroom.
For a little while, they scratched their heads, trying to figure out answers to my question. I jotted some of the responses on the notebook paper I had with me to record responses.
And then one student said, “It’s because Ms. C. writes with us.” The floodgates opened, and I couldn’t document their responses fast enough. They kept saying why her writing mattered, and I kept scrawling on my piece of paper. My original notes were an assortment of different ideas, but later as I read their comments, I could organize them into categories of related concepts.
Some of the statements had to do with the sense of validation they felt:
“It shows you’re not giving an assignment for the sake of giving an assignment.”
“It proves the fact that we’re all students and all teachers.”
Other statements had more to do with the inspiration she provided–the bar she set for them:
“I want to do it as well as she does.”
“It makes me want to do it better.”
“Seeing her think, seeing that she cares about her work, helps me think in my own writing.”
“She shows us the fun of writing.”
And another set of statements reflected the sense of community they felt as a result of sharing their writing lives:
“Her writing shares stuff about her we wouldn’t know otherwise.”
“We teach each other how to learn and be good friends.”
Spontaneously, I put Ms. C. herself on the spot, and I asked her why her writing life mattered to her as a teacher. Some of her reflections made right in that moment are so important:
“I appreciate the struggle of time. When I draft and I can’t get the word, I realize how much I want that word, and I develop and then teach different strategies to learners.”
“It makes me mindful of what learners need to write.”
“I can be more supportive because I know what it’s like to have a defined writing block.”
Whenever I have a chance in my coaching work, I weave in the importance of our own writing.Yet I have never had such an unscripted conversation with children about how much their teacher’s writing mattered to them. Straight from the mouths of students–our writing models, motivates, and inspires.