reflective practice · writing workshop

Do You Ever Wonder?

“I’m ready to publish my story.”

“Do you think this is done?”

“Can I just re-write my story.”

1 minute into independent writing time, “I reread my story from yesterday. It’s done.”

“I don’t need to fix anything. It’s really good.”

“I made two editing marks in every paragraph of my story so now it’s finished.”

“I changed a word, now can I be done?”

“What do I do now?”

“I really like it.”

“Can I publish?”

“I can’t do anything better.”

“I’m done.”

“I’m done.”

“I’m done.”


When teachers continually hear habitual phrases like these I envision hands thrown in the air and screams of I’M DONE TOO, as they run for the door. It can be frustrating to witness repetitive behaviors when you feel like you’ve already addressed the “I’m done” situation in your classroom. However, like all pesky pests, they can find their way back in and frustration can mount quicker than an ant hill forged by a colony.

Like so many areas of learning, students often feel the only success is at the finish line. Who doesn’t want to get there? As we work with our writers to change this mindset the trickle of fixed thinking can sometimes seep in through the cracks. We just need to be prepared to patch up the holes and move with positivity and forward thinking.

When we are hearing our writers use phrases like this, I think the best thing we can do is reflect on how we respond.

  • Are we always saying, “When you’re done you’ve just begun?”
  • Do we often limit the opportunity for students to make authentic publishing decisions?
  • Is our workshop so linear that each piece has a finish line?
  • Do we stifle our students drafting phases with constant schedules?
  • Are ideas and half starts never left to live unfinished?
  • Is the student work about what we want over the growth of our writers?

If our answers to any of these questions are yes, then it is no surprise our students are left to wonder.

It should make us wonder.

10 thoughts on “Do You Ever Wonder?

  1. I have been writing for a very long time and just read an excerpt titled shI%#y first drafts It was a good read no matter how long I have been writing it all makes sense a lot of people think good writers sit down and write like crazy until reading this I did not think about it like that sometimes you just have to sit down and put something to paper something good will come out of everything that you write no one will see it but you and less you choose to show them. FYI your blog is amazing love it


  2. I had this problem early in my career. Now, I teach how to revise and give them plenty of tools to prompt it. Most students are saying “I am done” because they don’t know what else to do. It is the teacher’s role to equip them.


  3. it’s nice to be a part of it, it makes me happy that you are like this, me there my comenta with heart. your children, have a really good Italy you say fai tutto con Amore amore!


  4. This is very thought provoking and timely for me. As a Literacy Coach supporting teachers, I often ask well have you taught “When I am done, I’ve just begun?”… “Maybe it is time to revisit that” is often my response. But really the question should be more about What is the culture around writing in your classroom? Do the students see themselves as writers? What are the opportunities for them to make independent decisions about what to write and publish? I truly believe that if you build the culture around writing, the amount of I’m done you hear will lesson.


  5. I’ve always wondered when I’ve heard the phrase “when you’re done, you’ve just begun.” If kids hear teachers say that, do they really understand what it means? If teachers are living a writerly life and showing kids what this means by opening their notebooks and showing off their own writing, then perhaps it makes it clearer what that phrase means.

    You’re giving us important questions to ponder in this post. Thank you for helping all of us reflect on what we say and how it impacts the writing culture in classrooms.


    1. I have seen that students don’t know what that means. “Just begun” to them is going to change one word, okay, done again! Catchphrases are only catchy and meaningless if it’s just something to say. There can be a lot of meaning in a catchphrase if, like you say, we pull out what it means to have just begun a journey with a model or ourselves as an example.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Betsy,
    Such a toss-up! If I only write on “teacher topics/genres”, writing may feel safe, unengaging, but a task that is open, shut, done. If I have more freedom, I also may have more questions, more starts, and stops, more opportunities for failure, but also more personal investment.

    Are there opportunities for student choice in authentic writing? What might that look like? Are teachers writing enough themselves that they also feel this tension between a written curriculum and the enacted curriculum?

    Such a good thinking topic for today!!! Thanks!


    1. You only get closer to understanding the tension when you put yourself right in the middle of it. I know it can be scary, hard, frustrating to try and find the time but we miss such a big opportunity when we refuse to practice and walk the walk of our students. I’m like you in that my topics/genres are usually pretty safe when I am making the choices of what to write. I am always surprised when in the midst of writing alongside my students within a unit that I am able to practice the creativity that’s associated with fiction or persuasive writing. If we just can take the time to really think about what is happening, real solutions can come to play. Thanks for your comment, Fran.


  7. Betsy, this is such a thought-provoking piece. I think it is absolutely student lack of engagement in writing that leads to such statements and the lack of engagement may be due to forcing them to do certain types of writing. As a teacher, I am given my curriculum and it is already paced out for me with the type of genres I am responsible for teaching and the samples of writing I need to hand in. I wish we could provide more freedom in writing workshop for students to live truly as writers, making those decisions that writers really make. No one forces a writer in real life to write a literary essay if he doesn’t want to write that. You’ve made me think about ways I can restructure my workshop to allow students more opportunities for self-directed writing.


    1. Exactly! I feel a bit constrained as a teacher sometimes because of constant scheduling of units, test prep (required), etc. There has to be some kind of balance and I feel like there must be a way to still follow through with “requirements” while giving freedom. Even if not all the time, at least some of the time. We are missing the boat if the buy-in is only about pleasing the teacher and meeting a deadline or requirement.


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