Solutions to Writing Workshop Challenges

The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Real Strategies for the Real Classroom 
By M. Colleen Cruz
(Heinemann, 2015 – Learn more)

vonstaden3Reviewed by Laura Von Staden

In her newest book, The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, M. Colleen Cruz addresses the most common issues that stop teachers from teaching writer’s workshop the way that they want. She begins with her mindset about teaching and gives some very thought provoking analogies. She then addresses 11 common roadblocks to teaching writing workshop, from issues of how to teach the advanced, reluctant, struggling, or ELL student, to issues of time, resources, families, curriculum and administration.

unstoppable writng tchr vonstadenCruz follows with a chapter on strategies for attacking roadblocks not addressed in the book and encourages readers, as she did in the front matter, to continue the conversation online either through her blog or via Twitter. She finishes the book with two inspiring chapters to keep us motivated to overcome the obstacles and continue the important work that we do.

As a self-proclaimed pessimist, Cruz addresses the obstacles we face as fears that threaten to stop us if we continue to be afraid: we need to face them head on, talk about them, and problem solve them together.

She believes, “as a pessimist,” that teaching is hard work and that “hard things do consistently happen,” but that (optimistically?) “every time something bad happens, it’s an opportunity for something different, and maybe even better to happen.”

With this perspective, she begins each chapter with a very sincere statement of the problem, followed by sections on why the problem/fear might be stopping us and how to see the opportunities in the problem. She continues each chapter with some ideas to experiment with to solve the problem, and finally suggests ongoing work to be done when the problem is not fully resolved or reappears.


Cruz’s take-away message is “that when faced with something that tries to stop us from doing what we know is good for kids, we . . . owe it to ourselves and our students to take action.” She goes on to say: “We might not know the perfect answer . . . but, as long as we actively try to be open to making things better, we will be unstoppable” (p. 133).

Overall, this is a well written book addressing the most common challenges writing teachers face when teaching writing workshop. It gives solid suggestions, which are primarily geared toward the middle grades, to approach and solve the problems/fears that may be holding us back.

Sample M. Colleen Cruz’s writing at her post “The Unstoppable Writing Teacher: Work Smarter, Not Harder” or download the Introduction.

Dr. Laura Von Staden is a Special Education Middle School Teacher in Tampa, Florida. She serves on numerous committees both at her school and within her district and works closely with the local university where she is a Professional Practice Partner and a master mentor. Dr. Von Staden also facilitates both online and face-to-face Professional Development for her school district.


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