Yesterday, I shared some preliminary findings from my work within the WNY Young Writers’ Studio, what I’ve learned, and how this is beginning to influence my next steps.
I’m compelled by the idea of helping young people identify their needs (particularly as writers) and develop strategies and approaches that enable them to meet them. I’ve spent the last three years watching what can happen when kids take themselves, their work, and the dilemmas they face as learners seriously enough to engage in investigation and problem solving around them, and I know from experience that when kids are supported to do this meaningfully and often, they often become empowered enough to share what they know in ways that truly help others. Some of them even become confident enough to advocate for themselves and the promising practices they’ve discovered inside of their classrooms.
Is this idealistic, this audacity to believe that kids can and should lead the change inside our field? I don’t know, but I’m absolutely willing to bet on them at this point–enough to invest a good amount of time and energy in their efforts. I don’t believe that today’s students are lazy or apathetic or entitled or happy to be disengaged. I believe that kids are born eager to learn and they feel great about themselves when consumed in the creation of things that matter and the solving of real problems. They have important things to say too, and when they are taught how to reflect and practice self-awareness, they are able to provide critical insight about their gifts, the contributions that they can make to our communities, and how we can help them best. Over the last few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in learning more about what it takes to teach those processes.
How do we help young people become increasingly reflective?
How do we help them refine and deepen that process?
How can we help kids become increasingly self-aware?
How do we help them explore varied dimensions of themselves and their experiences?
Which strategies enable this best?
So far, my efforts to help kids advocate for what works has begun in this place, with these questions.
And these are some of the thinkers and resources that are informing me. Whose work do you value? What would you add?
- I have a deep appreciation for Gillie Bolton’s research on writing and the findings and strategies shared in Reflective Practice: Writing and Professional Development.
- Ditto to the work of Ruth Ayres and Stacy Shubitz (the Two Writing Teachers), who recently published Day by Day: Refining Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice
- Paul McIntosh approaches reflection in creative ways in order to ensure sustained engagement in the process, which can often involve discomfort and even frustration. I’ve gained helpful perspective from his book, Action Research and Reflective Practice: Creative and Visual Methods to Facilitate Reflection and Learning.
- I also recommend Learning Together With Young Children: A Curriculum Framework for Reflective Teachers by Deb Curtis.
- Susan Greenland’s expertise on mindfulness and the strategies that she shares for helping children practice it has enlightened my work as a teacher and a parent.
- And this book? Is amazing. I’ve given my copy away, but I have another on order. Hope it comes in time for Saturday’s Studio session.
Photo by Laura Stockman. Used with permission.