Doing the Same Work as Our Students
I made many mistakes during my first year of teaching. I’m too embarrassed to blog about most of them since I cringe when I look back on my first year of teaching. I got so much wrong. However, there is one thing I got right from the start during year one. Thanks to the support of Pat Werner, who was my wise literacy coach that year, I went through the writing process alongside my students each and every unit of study. Since I was scrambling that first year, this often meant I’d stay up until the wee hours of the morning doing the same writing work I’d be asking my students to do in the following day’s minilesson. Some of the time, I’d write during the demonstration part of the minilesson. (That’s perfectly fine, but writing on-the-fly is a challenge too.) Regardless of when I did the writing, I always went through the same writing process I asked my students to do — day after day — in the minilessons I taught.
This past summer, I studied with Katie Clements in her advanced section, “Making Literary Essays Meaningful and Beautiful” at the TCRWP August Writing Institute. Katie took us through the writing process with a series of microlessons (which are shortened versions of the minilessons we teach to students). Every night, she encouraged us to continue drafting. By the end of the week, I completed a couple of drafts of a literary essay, which I plan to use with upper elementary students when I confer in fourth and fifth-grade classrooms this year.
Here’s a look at some of the work I did during Katie’s session. I’ll write more about what I learned in my literary essay section soon.
It’s easy to get swept up creating perfect minilessons, helping students outgrow themselves as writers, and to remember to make time for a share session at the end of every writing workshop! I know life gets busy. It’s easy to reuse the same demonstration texts year after year. However, we “sell” ourselves as writers in front of our students when we write alongside them. We uncover predictable problems by going through the writing process ourselves when we keep pace with our students as they go through the units we’re teaching. As a result, we give our students a wonderful gift when we do the same work they’re doing in “real time.”
To close, I’ll share some wise words from my friends and mentors, Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, about teachers who are also writers.