Become a teacher who writes

February 19th, 2015

This March will be the eighth time that the Two Writing Teachers blog will host its annual Slice of Life writing challenge. Blog founder and Stenhouse author Stacey Shubitz invites all teachers — and students — to make writing a priority and write every day for 31 days. In this guest post, Stacey talks about why it is important for teachers to also be writers and how the month-long challenge can help you overcome your fear of writing.

Become a teacher who writes
By Stacey Shubitz

I spent 2006 – 2007 doing action research in my fifth grade classroom. One of my greatest takeaways was that in order to teach writing well, one must be a teacher who is also a Writer.

Some teachers I’ve consulted with don’t think they’re good writers. They’re paralyzed with fear because somewhere along the way they were made to feel afraid of writing. When I hear this, I often tell teachers how I overcame my fear of driving since it is similar, in many ways, to the fear some teachers feel about writing.

I was a confident driver in high school. I got my license at 17 and drove 32 miles round trip to school each day of senior year. I went to college in Washington, DC, where it was impractical to keep a car. My driving was limited to school vacations only. Things were going along fine whenever I came home from college and needed to drive until I was in a car accident in 1998. I was the seat-belted front passenger and sustained a neck injury that still affects me today. As a result, I stopped wanting to drive. I would defer to someone else to drive or I would take mass transit, even if the schedule was inconvenient. Upon graduation from college, I moved to Manhattan where I figured I’d live until I was old and gray. But then I fell in love a guy who got a job offer in Providence, RI. He proposed marriage. A little over a year later, I relocated from New York to Rhode Island. For the first time since high school, I had to drive a car again.

The guy I just referred to is Marc and he’s been my husband since 2007. When I moved to Rhode Island in July of that year, Marc bought me a present. It was a GPS and its sole purpose was to help me navigate so I could focus on safety and get over my fear of driving. When I set up the GPS, I selected the British male voice, who the company named Daniel. I chose Daniel because his voice soothing, which helped me every time I tensed up merging on to a highway. Initially, I pushed a button to avoid highways, which almost always sent me on a circuitous route. After realizing there were no shortcuts around the State of Rhode Island, I came to realize I’d have to dare to be the best driver I could possibly be. I’d have to be fierce, but cautious. I’d have to balance defensive driving with aggressiveness so I wouldn’t be run off of the road. If I was going to be independent, I’d have to overcome my fear of driving.

I once heard Mary Ehrenworth say “with risk comes beauty.” Sitting in the driver’s seat felt risky to me until driving took me to new places. Thanks to Daniel’s navigational prowess, I became a confident highway driver. Over time, I took myself on day trips to Narragansett, Newport, and Boston. Nearly eight years later, I drive long distances by myself. I split the driving with my husband on road trips. And even though there are still some things that scare me about driving (e.g., rush hour traffic in Manhattan), I am now confident enough to drive on I-81 next to all of the trucks every single day. Overcoming my fear of driving was essential to my independence.

If I could get over my fear of driving and become a driver, then you can overcome any discomfort you may have about writing to become a Writer. The only thing standing in your way of you becoming a Writer is you. If you tell yourself it will take time to get comfortable putting words on the page, you can be a Writer. If you tell yourself you can positively impact the lives of your students by writing regularly, you can be a Writer. If you tell yourself you will shut down the voices in your head that tell you you’re not talented enough, you can be a Writer. It takes time and practice, but everyone can become a great Writer.

Once you come to believe the world will be a better place if your voice is part of it, then the next thing you must do in order to become a Writer is to make writing daily a priority. I know it’s hard to fit yet another thing into an already jam-packed schedule. I have blogged about ways to create a writing life that is both consistent and meaningful.

If you’re still unsure about whether you can envision yourself as a Writer, I encourage you to try out slice of life writing. Slice of life stories are anecdotal pieces of writing about a small part of one’s day. It’s usually written in the first person.

Image 1

The Slice of Life Story Challenge began on Two Writing Teachers in 2008. The online challenge’s mission is to support teachers who wanted to write daily. Over the years, the Challenge created a community of teacher-writers who are better able to support the students they serve in writing workshops daily. Teachers are invited to write a slice of life story on their own blog and then share the link to their story on our blog’s call for slice of life stories. Then, each person who leaves a link to their blog visits at least three other people’s blogs to comment on their slice of life writing.

I’m always amazed by the enthusiasm in classrooms where students and teachers are writing alongside each other. Recently I asked our blog readers how their instruction has been impacted by being a Writer. Here’s a sampling of what they said:

Image 2 - Slicer Comments #sol15

Like these teachers, I believe being a Writer is the single most important gift I ever gave my students. Being a teacher and a Writer means you can confer with your students and feel a special kind of camaraderie. Being a teacher and a Writer means you understand the struggles and frustrations as well as the triumphs and the beauty. Being a teacher and a Writer means you will transform your students’ lives because you believe in the power of words. It is my hope all children who take part in writing workshops will have teachers who are also Writers.

I hope you’ll join us for the 8th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge this March. Click here for more information.

Entry Filed under: Writing

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Julie Burchstead  |  February 19th, 2015 at 11:48 am

    I can personally vouch for The Slice of Life writing community as a supportive and wonderful place to step into writing. You gain a wonderful audience of peers for your own writing. In addition reading the work of others provides you with mentor text to help you grow and find your own voice. As a Literacy coach who has always been a closet writer, I have to say, writing with the discipline of a weekly “deadline” (more like an invitational opportunity) gave me an authentic purpose for writing. The more I write in ways I expect my students to write, the better I feel about mentoring and coaching both student and colleague writers I work with. as I understand their joys and struggles first hand. Plus, if you have not yet discovered the host blog, Two Writing Teachers ,yet…you will be amazed at the timely and helpful information they put out there each and every day! They have become a go to resource for me in my work.

  • 2. Laura Purdie Salas  |  February 19th, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story–great analogy. When I go into classrooms as a visiting author, nothing makes me happier than seeing teacher works right there with the student works! I had a teacher write a welcome poem for me and put it on a poster, which the kids decorated. Was it going to win a Pulitzer? No. Did it accomplish *exactly* what it set out to do–make me feel welcome, get the kids excited about poetry, show the kids what personal writing can do? Yes. Yes. Yes. Loved it!

  • 3. Stacey  |  February 19th, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    I, too, love seeing teachers who walk the walk and talk the talk, Laura!

  • 4. Dana Murphy  |  February 19th, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    Stacey, your analogy is a powerful one. It’s true. I just presented the SOLSC to our building teachers, and as I told them, there is only way to find out if you are a writer. The March challenge has also been, for me, the single most powerful form of writing PD I have ever experienced. Everyone can be a writer. It’s true.

  • 5. Stacey  |  February 20th, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Thanks, Dana! I’m so excited to have teachers from your building participating with us again this year. It’s incredible how you’ve been able to cultivate so many teacher-writers at your school!

  • 6. Amy  |  February 20th, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you for the reminder to write every day, Stacey! I’m looking forward to the SOLC this year.

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