I dedicate this piece to author/teacher friend, Frank Murphy, who shares his ideas freely with teachers everywhere and encourages teachers of writers to be teachers who write.
Every day students enter the classroom with so many things they carry inside their heads and hearts. I think it is important to bring each day with a mantra – kind of a pep talk to get us started on the right track each morning. My favorite one is borrowed from a friend of mine, author and teacher Frank Murphy: “Today, I will paint a masterpiece.”
Striving to make each day a joyful learning experience, it is important to choose a positive attitude and be in the moment as we interact with our students and colleagues. Listen -really listen to peers and students as they talk with you and with each other. Notice body language, what their emotional and well as intellectual state appears to be. Choose your words carefully. Perhaps, pause before you offer a response. Of course, it’s a good idea when you are not doing more talking than listening.
And remember, when you confer with students, offer praise that doesn’t focus on you such as “I like the way you….” Instead, try to begin with what the student has accomplished: “You included such strong description here by appealing to several senses as well as showing us your character’s emotions through his actions.” Or simply begin with, “Here, in the text you said….” At least some of the time, ask the student to listen to you as you read his piece to him, allowing the young writer to hear his words. This process gives the writer a chance to be the first person who speaks in a conference. Conferring and feedback is about a shared talking and listening time where students often do more of the talking and teachers do more of the listening.
Another strategy I acquired from Frank is to talk about dedications, sharing a few favorites from published books, and then going on to share a piece of my own writing (a notebook entry, a letter, a poem, a story) and dedicating the piece to one of my students. That student will float on cloud nine for the rest of the day. What a great piece of news to take home to share with his parents and friends! Two or three dedications a month, and you will honor each of your students with this special tribute. You also have demonstrated “teacher as writer” to your students, so important to the success of your writing workshop.
Not every day will be perfect. There will be struggles and challenges. Sometimes, you will feel less than satisfied. Teachers tend to be tough on themselves. But if you strive to paint a masterpiece each and every day, you will have so many lovely compositions to hang on your memory wall, and your students will, too. We simply strive to do our very best each day, and that is more than enough!
I am participating in #SOL17 and want to extend a special thanks to the twowritingteachers blog team and all the participating writers for creating a wonderful writing community for sharing and responding to writing.