Friday, May 17, 2019

Embracing Feedback by Pauline Schmidt



Like most university professors, I am an over-achieving perfectionist who would never admit to needing help with writing. 

I can recall the anxiety I would have as I sent a chapter revision to my dissertation advisor, about a decade ago...Wwhy I was so nervous? I may never know. But, there it is.  The fear of being wrong. Or, maybe it was the fear of getting feedback?  Maybe thinking my work wasn’t good enough? 

After completing the National Writing Project's Invitational Summer Institute in 2015, I realized that feedback doesn’t necessarily imply that anything is bad or sub-par, it just can be better. The reader has questions or thoughts. They are interacting with the text in a meaningful way.

I embrace feedback now! 

In fact, instead of stewing over a revision or hiding the fact that I am stuck, I noticed that I look for help.  For example, I am working on a chapter in an edited collection about teachers in stage productions and I got to a point where I couldn’t see where I was going. I made salient points about my subject, reinforced my stance with evidence from the script and libretto, but just didn’t see how to bring the chapter to a conclusion.

The old version of me would have just written gibberish in the hopes that the editor would help to shape it; this time, I just put a side note in the text directly to the editor.  And, when I received her feedback, she addressed my problem with clarity. 

I have grown into my writer-identity and I know that, for me, writing does not happen in isolation. It requires the help of an informed reader.



Pauline Schmidt is Associate Professor of English Education at West Chester University. She is the Director of the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project and the Co-Advisor of the NCTE Student Affiliate. She is fanatical about chocolate, Harry Potter, and advocating for quality public education for all students.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Take Notice Along Your Writing Journey by Danielle DeFauw



I listened to the pencil etch into the page of my writer’s notebook as each crafted word dug me deeper into my character’s experience. Suddenly, the scratch of the lead paused as my eyes reread the scene.

The characters’ dialogue moved the story forward. Narrative beats revealed the action and setting details. My main character’s internal thoughtshots broke my heart.

I paused and knew at that moment that I had never written better. I transferred what I learned and saw evidence of my own writing growth on the page before me.

As a teacher-writer, I notice such growth in my own students, often, but not in my own writing. Rarely, do I pause to formatively assess my own development as a writer.

Pausing to notice how far I have come is part of the joy of my writing journey. But, to me, it’s not the best part.

Just as you cheer on your students, I encourage you to applaud yourself as you pursue writing that matters to your teacher-writer heart.

        Write.
        Write.
        Write.

        And pause.


Pause to notice how far you have come.

For me, this moment of pause encouraged me. Not only was I proud of the scene I had written, but I also realized the best part of the writer’s journey: As writers, we will never know how well we can write.

And so we write.



Danielle L. DeFauw, Ph.D., is an associate professor of reading and language arts at the University of Michigan - Dearborn. She can be reached at danielledefauw@danielledefauw.com. Join her blog: Writing Connections. Follow her on Twitter: danielle_defauw.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Noticing My Reflectiveness by Erica Johnson



I had the best of intentions at the beginning of the year: for every essay, paper, and writing I assigned my College English class, I would take on the writing assignment with them.  However, when you have the same class in two different semesters, you really notice the repetitiveness of your own assignments.  Is this a reflection on the assignments I give or just a reminder that to be challenged as a writer, I don’t need to do my students’ assignments as well?

Even worse than being repetitive, I’ve noticed the lack of authenticity in the assignments I have given.  I don’t really have them delve into writing beyond what they need to do for a grade or beyond an audience in the classroom.  I’m at this point in teaching where I want to do those types of assignments, but I still struggle and feel overwhelmed in how to properly implement them.

As a teacher, I’m in a constant state of reflection, but I am always especially hyper-aware and hyper-reflective during the spring months as we tailspin into seniors leaving and final projects piling up.  I want to do better for my students, I want to be challenged more as a teacher-writer, I want to have my students write beyond a grade.

I’m not giving myself enough credit on the aspects of teaching I have been successful at this year or the effort I made to be more authentic with both my assignments and my own writing.  I had students work on argument by crafting group PSAs that matched their paper.  I had students publish their work in the hallways, giving them the chance to break out of the MLA format bubble.  I even had a former students contact me about a ‘Dear Future Me’ letter they wrote in my class that they got to read this year.

It’s nice to know that even while I still have areas to continue to grow in, that there are some aspects of being a teacher-writer that I feel I got right.


Erica Johnson has been teaching for seven years in central Arkansas and currently works with juniors and seniors at Vilonia High School.  She spent the past summer transforming her teaching philosophy at the Teaching Shakespeare Institute in Washington, D.C.  When she isn’t spending time with her dog, she is visiting with her family and their latest addition: her niece Ivey.  She can be found gathering all of her teaching resources on twitter @teachercap_e.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2019

End of Year Noticings by Wendy Chaulk



Looking out at my class
Heads down
Pencils scrawling
Pens flitting
Stories telling
Notebooks filling

Looking out at my class
Smiles flow
Laughs develop
Discussions grow
Caring comments
Questions answered

Looking out at my class
Shoulders drop
Eyes fill
Cheeks moisten
Lips upturn
Sigh escapes

Looking back to the start
Heads down
Pencils breaking
Pens destroyed
Stories untold
Notebooks blank

Looking forward to next fall
Same students and room
Increasing expectations
Knowing they’ll soar
Knowing they’ll fly

End of year noticings
All are thinking
Even me
All are growing
Even me
All are writing
Even me
All are sharing
Even me
All are staying
Even me



Wendy Chaulk is finishing her nineteenth year as a teacher. She has taught fourth grade in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; second grade in Jacksonville, NC; K-5 special education in Rio Rancho, NM; 4-6 special education in Gillette, WY; and currently teaches in a fifth and sixth grade looping classroom in Gillette, Wyoming . She loves teaching, writing, cooking, and camping. You can connect with Wendy on Twitter (@wluvs2teach) and on her blog (https://chaulk-it-up.blogspot.com/). 

Monday, May 13, 2019

Ten Minutes of Truth by Tammy Breitweiser



Only recently did I start to refer to myself as a writer and start believing it. I have always written, but labeling myself as such was a leap which seems silly now. Last week I heard someone say you don't have to remind her to eat or breathe and it is the same for her writing. Being a writer has always been who I am,  and now I have established rituals for my writing practice.

There are two noticings I will share with you today about my own writing journey that may help you as a writer: Truth and Lists of 10.

Truth

To improve my writing craft I purchased Masterclass for myself in January. One of the threads that permeates through Neil Gaiman’s, R.L. Stine’s, Margaret Atwood’s, and Judy Blume’s Masterclass is writers must tell their truth.

How you see the world and how you tell your stories is important. Your light needs to shine through and writers do this by opening our hearts. This light is truth. YOU need to shine through. If truth scares you, especially writing in front of students, you can write first and then selectively share what is most powerful and appropriate for your lesson. You can also choose lines from authors your students will connect with and borrow their famous lines to help your student writers find and write their own truths.

Finding your truth can be like a game of hide and seek. One way to seek your truth is to write about a time you experienced extreme emotion - happiness, grief, anger, shame. You can always destroy it later, but the act of writing your story can open your heart and show your light to your students even without sharing your words.


Lists of 10

Pay attention to the world around you because it is fun and makes you a better writer. Writing these noticings down helps you when you are creating. Over a year ago I started making a daily list of 10 things.

On my lists are:

Lines I want to use
Overhead conversation snippets
Strange things I saw on the way to work or on a walk
Names I like
Strong verbs
Dream rememberings
Fun things kids say
Descriptions of feelings I am having
Descriptions of places
Metaphors
Words that keep coming up recently
Weird signs
Anything I find fascinating


Set your timer for 10 minutes and write about truth. Write about something you saw just within the last hour. Open your heart and let your light shine through as a writer - even if it is only for 10 minutes.



 Tammy L. Breitweiser is a curriculum coach in Northwest Indiana where she is currently dedicated to impacting student achievement in grades 7 and 8. With more than 23 years of experience, she is a reading advocate who believes in the reading and writing connection. She is working on a collection of short stories.  You can connect with Tammy on Twitter (@tlbreit) or through her blog Tammy’s Reading/Writing Life:  https://tammysreadinglife.wordpress.com/


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The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Reflecting and Noticing by Jean Samuel



Spring is a great time to reflect on a body of work in your writer's notebook.

The reflective process is not dissimilar to editing but allows the writer to process how you communicate and what you choose to communicate with others.

The adage "writers read" is so true in my case as my review noted that I spent 80% of my writing time writing about my reading.

Thematic writing is also informative as it helps note my wonderings and tangents that may have been a product of great discussion with my students. Those conversations were rich and vivid and often led to excellent book recommendation or links to comic books we all enjoyed.

This year, my writing allowed me to connect to my male students in a way I thought was unattainable. I was able to move beyond the tertiary sports discussion and reach them based on themes and trends in their lives.

Writing also allowed me to improve my connections colleagues; namely, colleagues were all involved in small groups that promote writing and focus system of accountability that helped keep me focused and on track to write daily.

Noticings are more than reflections; they can also foster engagement and interaction with those you may think you have little in common.

I noticed that my writing has grown so much as my ability to communicate my thoughts and ideas in a concise and approachable style translates to a more interpersonal style of coaching and management with my classes.

As we approach the summer, what have you noticed and how will these noticings improve your practice and engagement?




Jean Samuel (@APSSamuelRdg6) is currently a middle school reading specialist in Arlington, VA. She is currently involved in research related to Ethics in Education and working with students of all ages who are diagnosed with dyslexia. She also writes a blog post at https://admiralsread.weebly.com can be reached via jasamuel33@gmail.com 


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The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing.  We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Moving Past the Wall by Tracy Vogelgesang



Writing every day...a dream that became a reality.  In March, I successfully participated in a daily blogging challenge.  I felt energized and motivated by my daily writing habit.  I was on top of the world. 

Then came April.  For teachers, that means full steam ahead to the end of the year finish line and total exhaustion.  My daily writing habit hit a wall.  I ran out of steam.  I was saddened and frustrated, and I knew I had to climb over this obstacle. 

I am still climbing, but I do believe I am on my way.  I have noticed the following things about moving past this block:


  • It helped to talk about it with like-minded people.  I am grateful for the fantastic people in my Wednesday night Teach Write writing group!
  • My notebook was a lifeline.  I could sort out my thinking and jot down ideas.
  • Some days all I wrote was a line of gratitude in an app on my phone.  That is okay.  
  • I hit the wall while writing a blog post about a topic I love.  I refused to abandon it, though I admit that I thought about it.  It took a few weeks, but the post is done!
  • I continuously told myself that experiencing this block is a normal part of the process.  Blocks do not define my writing or me, and I will move past them. 


Although I am still not writing as much daily content as I was, I am writing again every day.  For that, I am thankful. 


Tracy Vogelgesang currently teaches a writing community of third, fourth, and fifth graders.  She also teaches them how to explore the wonders that surround them through science. She has been teaching for 25 years and loves helping students discover their voices and realize the strengths and gifts they bring to this world. When Tracy isn’t teaching and writing, she spends her free time building memories with her husband, children, and grandchildren. She also reads, gardens, and enjoys time with family and friends. Tracy can be found on Twitter @Mrs_T_V and at https://everydaycounts.edublogs.org/.



Write for Us!

The #TeachWrite Twitter Chat Blog is dedicated to providing a space for our community to connect and share their voices about writing and teaching writing. We are looking for guest bloggers who would like to blog on topics related to being a teacher-writer. Educators and writers of all levels are invited to join us in this space. More information can be found here.