When I stand in front of a group of young writers, I typically take on one of two roles. The first is that of the Teacher (of course). The second is that of the Lead Writer.
When I am the Teacher, I hold several responsibilities:
- Delivering direct and explicit instruction in whole group, small groups, and conferences
- Engaging students in self-reflection and self-assessment
- Establishing the structures that enable our workshop to run smoothly (handling materials, managing work space and time, etc.)
- Selecting materials and resources that will support writers and move them forward
- Adapting instruction to meet students needs
- Providing clear and timely feedback.
As the Teacher, it is my responsibility to have a clear vision of my standards, expectations, and students so that I can design and deliver instruction that will move my learners forward in their growth as writers.
When I am the Lead Writer, I have several obligations to myself and my students:
- Producing pieces of writing alongside my writers
- Modeling my process, my struggles, and my own vulnerability
- Demonstrating my own writing process
- Infusing enough of my own writing persona into our workshop for students to view me as a writer as well as their teacher
- Being honest about the hard parts of writing and how I work through them
- Opening myself to feedback in the same way I want students to be open.
As the Lead Writer, I have the opportunity to show my students that writing is real, writing is meaningful, and writing is bigger than just the work they do within the four walls of a classroom.
Our skills as Teachers are typically developed through workshops, in-service days, coaching, and engaging with professional literature/books/digital resources. It is imperative that we not only know how to teach writing but know how to teach it well.
Our skills as Lead Writers, however, are rarely front and center in our professional growth (there’s just never enough time in the day!).
As we flip our calendars over to 2023 and head back to school, I’d like to challenge you to make some simple resolutions to develop yourself as the Lead Writer in your classroom. Not sure where to start? Here are a few ideas:
- Pay attention to the writing you already do. Emails, thank you notes, lists, that paper you dragged yourself through for a graduate class, and all other forms of writing count! Then consider any types of writing that you’d love to try but haven’t yet–and try them out!
- Talk about your writing life in front of your students. Don’t think you have a “writing life”? Consider all of the emails and newsletters and mentor texts you write in a week. Trust me, you do have a writing life and there are absolutely some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you can share with students.
- Start your own writer’s notebook and approach it with flexibility and patience. Forgive yourself for missing a day (or a week) here and there, make it messy, and embrace the opportunity to write without risk.
- Explore quick writes. Reserve 5-10 minutes a few times each week and setting a timer is a great place to start. A quick Google search for writing prompts will yield plenty of ideas to keep you writing for the whole year.
- Try writing in the genre you’re teaching. Creating your own mentor text is not only excellent writing practice but gives you insight into the potential parts of the task your students may find challenging.
- Find a community. Whether in person, through a Zoom community, or asynchronous online, writing doesn’t have to be a solitary endeavor.
- Join the Slice of Life Community here on the TWT Blog. Whether you join just for the daily challenge in March or pop in every Tuesday, it’s a great way to be supported, share your writing with an authentic audience, and capture little bits of your life that you’ll be thankful you paused to write.
- Set some goals and give yourself grace. Think for a moment about a way you want to push yourself as a writer this year. Do you want to write an article? Start a blog? Write more handwritten letters to loved ones? Fill a notebook? Share your writing with a real audience? Whatever your dream may be, make it your focus in 2023 and set a reminder to pause and reflect a few months from now.
Spend a few minutes this weekend or early next week reflecting: Where are you right now as a Teacher of writing? Where are you right now as a Lead Writer?
I, too, will be pushing myself this year to continue developing as a Lead Writer. I will once again join the Slice of Life Story Challenge and attempt to join on Tuesdays. I will push myself to resume journaling with plenty of grace for the days I forget or life gets in the way. I will talk about myself as a writer to others–kids, colleagues, friends, and family–because it’s part of my identity. And I will keep nudging myself out of my comfort zone one word at a time.
Are you ready to start 2023 as a Lead Writer in your classroom as well as a Teacher? Grab a notebook, pick up a pen, and start writing! You’ll be amazed at your own growth–and at the impact it will have on your students.
3 thoughts on “Writing Your Way into a New Year: Be a Lead Writer in 2023”
This is a great post and as Sally noticed, also a great post to share! I tell my class all the time that I used to be a fake write teacher because it has only been the last 6-7 years that I had a writing life outside school. I love your tips as it makes it seem like everyone can take those next steps.
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Ack, writing, not write.
Sarah, Thank you!!!!
I am planning for my middle school English department meeting next week and your post is perfect for me to share with my teachers. I already planned a 10-min quick write as I always have my staff write at the start of our meetings. Your blog post fits perfectly as inspiration as we start 2023. Know you are helping teachers in Arlington, VA! Thank you!! BTW – I was sitting 2 over from you at the NCTE slicer gathering! As I reflect, I’m adding to my list to attend NCTE23 and attend the slicer gathering!!
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