A Writing Teacher’s Role as Literacy Itself Changes
A MiddleWeb Blog
Nearly five years ago, with a warm and welcoming invitation from MiddleWeb’s John Norton and Susan Curtis to write what I wanted to write about teaching, I began putting out regular pieces in this blogging space, with a promise to readers that I would try to avoid the ‘know it all’ voice of a teacher.
Heck, I still don’t know it all. And never will. I’m still learning. I’m still in “Working Draft” mode.
This piece you are now reading is my 72nd column under the banner of Working Draft, if my tally is correct, and I have decided, with John and Susan’s blessing, that it will also be my last Working Draft piece.
While I am deeply appreciative of this platform as a forum about teaching, and about learning in the middle grades, it seems the right time for me step aside.
At this point, I feel as if I have said all that I want to say, for now, and before I run the risk of repeating myself too much and start worrying that writing on deadline will become a chore instead of a pleasure, I figure it’s better to depart and make room for another writer who brings another teaching perspective into the mix.
And that will happen, as my longtime National Writing Project friend Jeremy Hyler will launch his own regular MiddleWeb column about teaching English Language Arts in the middle school classroom, beginning in July.
As a writer in this space, I have tried to stay true to some basic beliefs and principles:
- Writing is a central way to process information and make sense of the world, and of the self. In any content areas, the concept of “writing to learn” is a central tenet, and all students should be regularly exploring many genres of writing, and writing in many mediums;
- Teachers should be explorers, too, and the act of sharing out their own work with students – failures, successes, workarounds – is key to uncovering the ways writers write, and people learn. Students who only see finished products will never see themselves in the mix of what writing really is about.
- Our ideas of literacy itself are changing, as technology takes a firmer hold on our lives and the ways we, and our students, communicate in and out of school. To ignore the writing that our students do outside of our classrooms seems both foolish and futile, and the role of teachers has never been more important.
Still In Draft Mode, Still Working On It
As I wrote this final piece, I took some time to tour through what I had written over the last five years. Here are the ten posts that resonated the most with me, even after hitting the “publish” button, for a variety of reasons – either because they tried to address a question of personal and/or professional inquiry, showcased work that my students were doing, or showed the imperfections of a teacher in a classroom of young people:
- Sixth Grade Identity Crisis
- Writing with Them
- In Love with Paper Dictionaries
- Rikki Tikki Tavi as a Touchstone Text
- Tackling Race in the Classroom
- A Field Study of Sixth Graders in the Wild
- Infusing Writing into Video Game Design
- Teaching Curation in the Age of Cacophony
- Making Time for Student Reflection
- Mistakes Were Made
Thank you, reader, for coming along on this journey with me for the past five years. I am proud of many of the pieces I wrote and the topics I explored. I always appreciated when someone I know (including my school superintendent at times and others in my district) referenced a published column, which often were syndicated in the MiddleWeb SmartBrief or picked up and shared in other education news services.
I still intend to write book reviews and try my hand at other special features here at MiddleWeb from time to time. And like you, I will be reading Jeremy Hyler and the other columnists here to help me reflect upon how I can be a better teacher for my students, and for myself.
Pursuing Connection and Collaboration
I’m still deeply involved in other projects that connect teachers and open doors to collaboration, and I hope you might think about joining me there, too.
The Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC) community continues to thrive, built on the principles of Connected Learning and also the notion of playful learning through sharing and making. Now entering its sixth year, CLMOOC is an open space, across multiple platforms, that honors teachers as learners through collaboration and reflection.
An offshoot of CLMOOC this summer is a new collaboration between the National Park Service and the National Writing Project known as Write Out, which is designed to connect educators to public spaces in an open learning experience. Write Out will run in mid-July, and the aim is to mix park rangers, classroom teachers, and others who care about public spaces together, and find ways to connect.
Of course, I will still be creating art and writing and other media each morning with the DS106 Daily Create and I continue to blog regularly in my little corner of the Internet with Kevin’s Meandering Mind, where I am as likely to write about teaching as I am about music, comics, remixing, books and whatever else catches my interest.
Until we meet again … safe travels on your own learning adventures.