…….especially if you haven’t had the opportunity to do it in the past. I’m working with quite a few teachers in different places this year who feel very much out of their element when they are asked to teach kids how to write. Sure, “all teachers are teachers of writing,” and I know that most elementary teachers were certified to do precisely this, but when did pre-service learning ever perfectly prepare any of us to do our jobs well? That’s a nice but rather improbable ideal….we know this.
I’m learning a great deal about what it takes to improve writing instruction this year as I talk with those who feel comfortable and effective in their roles as writing teachers…and those who do not. Each of these groups seem to have distinct commonalities. The teachers who feel most comfortable distinguish themselves as writers and avid readers. They also place themselves in positions where they can learn more about writing practice, craft, instruction, and assessment. They know that their learning will never be done, and they know that their work will always be imperfect. Despite this, they continue to establish their own support networks around this, seek out opportunities to learn, and question their own practice. They are also very enthusiastic about teaching writing, despite the complex nature of doing so, which they also speak to.
The teachers who feel the least comfortable distinguish themselves as content specialists and are honest about the fact that their passions, their expertise, and their skills lie elsewhere. They claim that they are completely out of their element as writing teachers. They place themselves in positions where they can learn more about the things things they love to teach–but writing is not one of those things. When they approach their work as teachers of writing, they seek structure, order, and control, and they readily explain that they do this because they are uncertain about how to proceed in this role. They demonstrate confusion, frustration, and to a lesser degree in my experience, resistance. The majority claim that they feel discouraged. They often feel judged for what they do not know.
Lots to consider there. More later–have a good week!