community

One Writer at a Time: Fostering An Adult Writing Community

For years, we’ve been nurturing the writing community within our school, not just among students but also among adults. It all began one summer when we invited members of our community to join us as we asked, “What happens when a group of teachers reads Ralph Fletcher’s Joy Write?” Reading this text, reminded and inspired many of us to think about what it truly means to teach writers. For the past eight summers, our meetings have continued. In those meetings, we invite others to draw, observe, and write. We ask questions that guide our work with children.

A picture from one of our summer meetings in 2017!

Sometime in February of this year, we threw out another question to our staff. What happens when we try to write every day in March? We put up a giant blank calendar and invited any member of our staff to sign up to “feel the thrill of going public with your story,” by adding their name to our calendar. We invited anyone who didn’t want to write the option to be readers. We encouraged comments via our blog or in person. There was a place for everyone to participate.

We recruited the people we knew would write, the people that had attended our summer sessions for years. We talked it up in the hallways as teachers walked their students down to dismissal. We pointed out potential stories as they happened in real life, “You could totally write about that!”

On March 1, all of the weekdays were accounted for. We were pretty excited. Maybe we wouldn’t write for 31 days, but we would write for 20!

When we launched our school blog on that first day in March, things were pretty quiet. We wondered, “What do people think?” “Are people reading?” Then, towards the end of the first week, something magical started to happen. On that first Friday in March, teachers gathered by our school-wide calendar after dropping their students off at dismissal. They talked about stories they had read. Some teachers shared nerves sharing their writing publicly. Right then and there, our community of writers started to take shape.

Soon after that, not a day went by that we weren’t talking about someone’s piece, someone’s process, someone’s wonder about whether that had an idea worth sharing too. We started publishing “Two For Tuesday” posts to accommodate the writers coming out of the woodwork. “I think I’m going to sign up! I’ve been reading every day and I keep thinking about what I might write.”

Taking part in the Slice of Life Challenge and being part of the Two Writing Teachers writing community for the past seven years always leaves me feeling extreme gratitude for the community of writers I have met and come to know through their writing. But being part of a writing community within our school has been like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. One member of our community said, “It has been such an incredible month of learning, growing and writing together.” There is magic in knowing and growing closer to the people you spend your days with.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about Fostering Community Through Writing Workshop. Within that post, I shared our superintendent’s opening rally, to make sure that we knew the story of every child we work with this school year. We have extended that to know the story of our colleagues.

What happens when a group of teachers come together to read, write, and share?

Let me tell you. Our community grew stronger, not only as teachers who write, but also as people that know and care about one another. Everyone was welcome to join in. We had classroom teachers, math teachers, our school nurse, administrators, paraprofessionals, and our custodians writing. Our community sought out and formed partnerships and trust. We knew each other in new ways through our stories and through conversations about the stories that were shared. We also lived more authentic writing lives, modeling for our students the challenges and joy that come with being a writer.

In a recent Tweet, Ralph Fletcher said, “WRITING IS FUN: that’s my bumper sticker. I’m bullish on pleasure. Students’ enjoyment of writing makes it more likely they’ll write at home. But our enjoyment is important, too. Teachers need to do whatever they can to find the pleasure–yes, the fun–in teaching writing.”

This challenge fostered the exact pleasure that Ralph Fletcher writes about. It broke down some of the invisible walls that had unintentionally formed in our school over time.  The open invitation to write and share brought us together under the umbrella of writers. Our community will continue to share our stories on Tuesdays on our school blog. We’re excited to see what happens next.

8 thoughts on “One Writer at a Time: Fostering An Adult Writing Community

  1. I loved hearing about this. Having facilitating a writing workshop with middle schoolers, I know how incredibly powerful it can be, not only in terms of writing, but also in building a close, coherent, respectful community. Kudos to you and all the people in your school willing to commit to this.

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  2. What a neat idea! I love this. You might have said this and I cruised past it, but where did you post the writing? Was it their own blogs like in SOL or was it the school web page? Thanks!

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  3. It was amazing to watch the writing and the writers grow throughout the month. It’s just like watching a class of writers come together over time in a classroom writer’s workshop. Thanks for capturing an example of what’s right in schools!

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