Teaching writing can be scary, difficult stuff. The word teacher implies an awful lot, after all. For some, it suggests that they should “know all” before proceeding. But that’s impossible, isn’t it? I can’t imagine knowing everything about writing or writing instruction. Or teaching. Or literacy coaching. Or anything for that matter. I don’t recall who said it online or where, but I remember nodding my head when I stumbled upon this bit of wisdom:
“You don’t need to know everything about good writing or good instruction to begin teaching writing, but you must be willing to keep learning as you go….”
In my own experiences as a teacher of writing, and in my conversations with those who love to do the same, several practices have proven essential to this kind of learning:
- Observing learners as they work, and capturing their strengths and their struggles in process
- Talking with writers individually, and providing them targeted support
- Continually exploring what good writing is and what good writers do, in order to accomplish this
- Writing! And then….reflecting on our own strengths and struggles in process…and then…sharing what we’re learning with those we are teaching
- Participating in collegial circles, learning communities, and personal learning networks: as teachers and as writers
I don’t know many GREAT teachers of writing who ever feel completely comfortable in their roles. Ironically, as the quality of student writing improves, providing meaningful feedback that supports their further growth seems to become more challenging as well. It’s tempting to merely strive for proficiency….in our own writing and in our work as teachers of writing as well. It’s tempting to seek or provide simple answers to wildly complex questions. It’s tempting to tell people what to think and do as they confront those questions, too. Often, the best writers and teachers that I know don’t pose questions because they are seeking fast answers. They pose questions because they are hungry for discourse and eager to gain a variety of perspectives before choosing their own courses of action.
Yeah, the word teacher implies an awful lot.
What does it mean, anyway? How do we fill that role responsibly and effectively? Anyone have a quick and easy answer?