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.
February 15th, 2017
We are thrilled to have a guest post today from author Stacey Shubitz who invites everyone to take part in the Slice of Life Story Challenge starting March 1. The great thing about this challenge is that you do not have to consider yourself a writer to participate — just put one foot in front of the other, find your tribe, and start writing!
Find Your Writing Tribe. Participate in the Slice of Life Story Challenge
By Stacey Shubitz
My Dad was an Eagle Scout who still loves the outdoors. He encouraged me to start hiking when I ventured away to sleepaway camp. I used my hiking boots just once during my first summer away from home. After a day hike, I declared hiking too tedious; it wasn’t for me. I shoved my once-worn hiking boots under my bed and didn’t touch them again until I packed up at summer’s end.
During the school year that followed, my father persuaded me to try hiking again. He thought I would enjoy it. In an effort to get him off of my case appease him, I vowed to try another daylong hike. I’m not sure if was the camaraderie, the scenery, or the GORP (a mixture of raisins, peanuts, and M&Ms), but I had a good time. Even though my legs ached by the end of the day, I signed up for another day hike a week later. I was hooked by the end of the second hike. By the time I returned to camp, I committed to an overnight hike, which consisted of climbing Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States!
Climbing Mt. Washington was challenging, but beautiful. Along the way my friends and I encountered lush forests and waterfalls.
Our overnight accommodations at the Lake of the Clouds Hut were sparse, but they were divine to our group considering how tired our bodies were after climbing all day.
The following morning, we awoke early, ate breakfast, and climbed to the summit of Mount Washington, where we were treated to a view of four states, Quebec, and the Atlantic Ocean!
I was exhausted when the counselors announced it was time to go. (Truth be told: I wished we could take the Cog Railway back down, but that didn’t happen.) I struggled with the hike to the base of the mountain, but kept myself focused that I’d always be able to wear the “This body climbed Mount Washington” t-shirt I purchased at the Mount Washington visitor center.
I remember sitting with ice packs for a day or two once we returned to sleepaway camp. (I also have a distinct memory of the five of us kids who climbed Mount Washington using tubes of Ben Gay, which the nurses gave us when we visited the infirmary.) Despite my temporarily bruised body, I recall feeling proud myself after climbing Mt. Washington. I had tried something I hadn’t particularly liked a second time, found I enjoyed it, and worked hard to accomplish something. To this day, I’m glad I gave hiking a second chance. As a result, I’ve hiked through incredible places, like Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon, the Chilkoot Trail, Denali National Park, El Yunque National Forest, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, Kenai Fjords National Park, the Mendenhall Glacier, and Yosemite as a young adult.
I didn’t think I could be a hiker, but after reconsidering its merits and trying it again, I found my way to it. And quite honestly, it didn’t take much for me to become a hiker. I signed up for a hike, strapped on hiking boots, filled my canteen with water, put one foot in front of the other, and was on my way to becoming a hiker. I didn’t initially think of myself as a hiker, but once I did it more and developed the persona of a hiker. (I even purchased a Camelbak so I could get the hiker look!)
It takes work to become anything you endeavor to be. Perhaps you don’t consider yourself a writer. Just as I took a second look at hiking, I want to encourage you to take another look at being a writer. I didn’t need to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in order to consider myself a hiker. I put one foot in front of the other — and did it a lot — until I got good at it and enjoyed it.
Taking on the identity of a writer is hard for some people since they feel writers are people whose names appear on book covers. That couldn’t be further from the truth. A writer is anyone who writes regularly. Therefore, the only thing standing between you and 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, the next thing you must do in order to become a writer is to make writing daily a priority. I realize it’s hard to fit yet another thing – in this case making a commitment to write daily — into an already jam-packed schedule. I have blogged about ways to create a writing life that is both consistent and meaningful.
The other thing you’ll need to do to become a confident writer is to find your tribe. One way you can do this is to form a weekly writing group with your colleagues. Another idea is joining an online writing challenge, such as the Slice of Life Story Challenge, which we host at Two Writing Teachers. This is a community of teacher-writers – at varying points in their careers – who come together to share blog posts about the ordinary moments in their lives.
Here’s a step-by-step process to get you ready to take on the Slice of Life Story Challenge in March
The Ninth Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge begins on Tuesday, March 1st over at Two Writing Teachers. All you need to get started is your own blog – which you can start for free using blogging software like WordPress or Edublogs – and a commitment to write daily. For more information on how to participate in our month-long writing challenge, please go to https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/join-our-writing-community/.
I am confident teachers who are passionate about writing and write regularly have students who are more confident and capable writers. I know this because I was always very public about my writing life when I taught fourth and fifth grades. I allowed my students to peek into my notebook. I shared my writing with them regularly. As a result, I knew the struggles they faced – as writers – because I was a writer myself.
Like climbing a mountain, writing is hard when one’s new to it. Even if writing has been an uncomfortable task for you in the past, I encourage you to try it again. You never know where it might lead you.
Stacey Shubitz is a Pennsylvania-based literacy consultant and a former elementary school teacher. She is the co-author of Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective Practice (Stenhouse, 2010). Her next book from Stenhouse, Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts, will be available in the summer of 2016. She blogs at Two Writing Teachers and can be found on Twitter at @sshubitz.
February 23rd, 2016
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.
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:
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.
February 19th, 2015
If you need some writing inspiration in these last, dark days of winter or if you need something to jump-start your writing routine, you are in luck! The Two Writing Teachers (Stenhouse author Stacey Shubitz and her group of bloggers) will begin their Slice of Life Writing Challenge March 1, 2014, and everyone is invited to participate.
Just like last year, there is an individual challenge open for everyone who has a blog, and a classroom challenge for teachers and their students. The most important part is that you sit down and write every day, for 31 days. And who knows? This might become a habit that will be hard to kick after March.
For more information, visit the Two Writing Teachers blog. There you will find information on how to start your own blog, how to participate in Slice of Life Tuesdays as well as the month-long challenge, and guidelines for classroom participation.
February 17th, 2014