The Tenth Annual Slice of Life Challenge kicks of March 1 and in this guest blog post Stacey Shubitz, cofounder of the Two Writing Teachers website, argues that to become an effective writing teacher, teachers need to be writers themselves. Stacey is the author of Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts.
Empower your teaching by being a teacher-writer
My daughter is adjusting to full-day kindergarten this year. Like many kids her age, she is exhausted when she comes home. As a result, we pulled her out of ballet and tap classes—she wanted to chill after a seven-and-a-half-hour school day rather than attend dance classes.
My husband and I searched for a Sunday afternoon activity because we wanted her to have an extracurricular interest. A friend suggested aerial arts class. The idea of my daughter hanging upside down and swinging from a piece of fabric scared me. The first thing I did was check the instructor’s qualifications. Upon researching, I learned the instructor had been performing and teaching aerial arts for nearly a decade. I wasn’t convinced I’d keep our daughter enrolled past the trial class, but the teacher’s experience was enough to let my daughter try it.
Once we arrived at the trial course, the teacher demonstrated everything she wanted the children to do before they did it. She talked about what might be challenging. She spotted the kids as they tried different poses in the fabric. She repositioned their hands, supported their bodies (when necessary), and encouraged them with supportive words. As a result of her expertise as an aerial artist and a teacher, I enrolled my daughter in weekly classes.
Just as teachers of aerials need to be proficient aerial artists, teachers who lead writing workshops should be writers themselves. I never would have enrolled my daughter in the aerials class if the instructor wasn’t a proficient aerial artist herself. Similarly, I believe writing regularly plays a role in becoming an exemplary writing teacher.
If you want to be the best teacher of writing you can possibly be, there are a few things you must do: read high-quality professional books, attend professional development about writing, surround yourself with colleagues who will study student writing alongside you, and do a lot of your own writing. If you’re not sure how to get started with your own writing, please join my colleagues and me for the 10th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge on Two Writing Teachers.
The Slice of Life Story Challenge began on Two Writing Teachers in 2008. The online challenge’s mission is to support teachers who want to develop and sustain a daily writing habit. Over the years, the challenge has created a community of teacher-writers who are better able to support the students they serve in writing workshops. Teachers are invited to write a slice of life story—an anecdotal piece of writing about a small part of one’s day—on their own blogs and then share the link to their story on our blog. Each person who leaves a link to his or her own blog visits at least three other people’s blogs to comment on their slice-of-life writing.
I believe being a writer is one of the biggest gifts you can give to your students. Being a teacher-writer means you can confer with your students and feel a special kind of camaraderie. Being a teacher-writer means you understand the struggles and frustrations as well as the triumphs and the beauty. Being a teacher-writer means you will transform your students’ lives because you believe in the power of words. It is my hope that all children who take part in writing workshops will have teacher-writers.
I hope you’ll join us for the 10th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge this March. We are a welcoming community of teacher-writers—at varying points in our careers—who come together to share blog posts about the ordinary moments in our lives. Click here to find out how to join our community of writers.
Stacey Shubitz is an independent literacy consultant, an adjunct professor, and a former elementary school teacher. She’s the author of Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts and the coauthor of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice. She blogs at Two Writing Teachers and can be found on Twitter @sshubitz.
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