Letting My Students See Me StrugglePosted: May 12, 2012
It has been some time since my last post and I apologize to my readers. Fortunately, I have been working on other writing that can benefit me professionally. Today dealing with 21st century learners can be a bit of a challenge for us in the language arts world. It isn’t enough to simply say to today’s learners that class is going to be fun or the topic we are going to write about is going to be of interest to you. Let’s face it, teaching students, especially middle schoolers how to write is a challenge. You add the CCSS to that equation, we now have to be more prepared in our classrooms to teach our students. As I have been spending an absorbent amount of time writing these last 3 weeks, I have given a lot of thought about how to make my students better writers. Though I am confident I do a solid job modeling for my students what I want to see out of their writing, I have failed to show them one side of me as a writer. I have failed to show my students the times I have stumbled or struggled with my own writing. All of the writing my students have viewed that belongs to me have been either finished or close to a finished product.
As I continue to find new ways to better myself as a teacher of writing and my students, I have realized they need to know about the times I struggle and what I have done to overcome those moments. Since the end of April I have been working on a book proposal and as my Thursday night writing group critiqued me and gave me valuable feedback last week, I knew I had to go back and do some major revision to my writing and make my voice more present in my writing. My audience needed to hear me and not a superficial voice that didn’t represent me or my writing. This has been somewhat of a struggle for me, but I have persevered. Then, I remembered, I didn’t share this particular uncomfortable adventure with my students. So, when I return to school, I will take the time to talk to my students about how I struggled with my writing.
So, why do I feel this is important for not just me, but other teachers to do in their classrooms? First, if I want my struggling writers to take the risk of making a mistake, they need to see me, the teacher/expert make mistakes and know that I am a human being who struggles with writing from time to time. I feel there are language arts teachers out there who find it easy to stand in front of a classroom and bark at their students about how a piece of writing should be constructed, but the teacher themselves don’t show how they go through the writing process and discuss with students how they struggle with certain parts of their own writing. Show them your not perfect. Second, modeling is by far one of the most important aspects of teaching. On the other hand, if a teacher actually writes with their students, they send a clear message to their students; writing is important! In my professional opinion, writing with your students is the best form of modeling a teacher can display for their students.
Finally, I want to leave my readers with this final thought, especially if you are a language arts teacher. Think about how many times your have shared your own writing with your students. It can be visually, or orally. If you don’t regularly do this in your classroom, I encourage you to start now. I don’t care if it is nearing the end of the year and you are trying to squeeze in the last of those curriculum requirements, share your writing. There are a lot teachers who lack the confidence to share there writing. I completely understand your position, but we need to be learners too and allow our students to catch a glimpse of what goes on inside of our heads. Who knows, we may gain some valuable insight from our students about our own writing. If a writing workshop classroom is what you desire, you will never gain your students trust if you don’t share your own writing. By sharing our own writing students are not so reluctant to share their writing and we as teachers might learn more about our students, other than the obvious fact they are language arts students in our classroom.