The Gifts We Give

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!

slice-of-life2I 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.

19 thoughts on “The Gifts We Give

  1. Lynne,
    Our students don’t come to us as blank slates. They have lives outside our walls.

    Your beginning was so powerful . . .
    “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.””

    You created a masterpiece today. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Today, I will paint a masterpiece.” Love this quote – perfect in so many ways. Thank you for including so many tips and conferring moves. It is so helpful to share how we confer. It really is an art. I love how you focus on honoring the voice of the writer and but the focus on the writing. “Here, in the text you said….” seems small, but it really is a huge difference. I look forward to trying that soon. Thank you.
    Clare

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Clare. Thanks for responding to my post. I have been doing a lot of thinking about conferring approaches lately. I heard Frank Murphy give a keynote in Philadelphia at a literacy coaching conference. He spoke about attitude – that we need to choose our attitude each day from the moment our feet hit the floor. The idea of painting a masterpiece stayed with me. It became my mantra.

      Your post made my heart swell with emotion! It was incredibly well written!

      Like

      • Thank you Lynne – I used several of your pieces as mentors. I tried a new type of lead – action and setting. I usually use dialogue. This type of lead truly shifted how the piece rolled out. Thank you the writing conferences you have been giving me virtually. I learn so much this month.

        Clare

        Like

  3. Lynne,

    This was my favorite line: “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.”

    To me, the “striving” part has always been the most important. Thank you for articulating this in such a beautiful way.

    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the idea of dedicating pieces of our writing to students. That’s one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that?” kind of ideas!! I want to remember this quote as I go in to classrooms this week, “… 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.” Thanks for some inspiration, Lynne!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow! Love the quote! “Today, I will paint a masterpiece” is so powerful!” I love all your conferring tips you shared. Especially the one about dedications and dedicating pieces to your students! Thanks for sharing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lynne, what a great post! There are so many ideas I will take away from it. I especially like your idea to read the writer’s words to him/her and then give “the writer a chance to be the first person who speaks in a conference.” I also can’t wait to try saying, “Here in the text you said…” Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas–your generosity will certainly impact my teaching this week!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lovely post, Lynne! I especially like the reminder you give to really listen to our students. We are so busy like you say, or thinking about our own agenda, that it is easy to miss the little things. I’m excited to slow down and do more listening tomorrow!

    Like

  8. This is a great post, Lynne, filled with powerful words (choose your words carefully, you say, and you certainly do), and great suggestions for the classroom. I will add to the praise for “Strive to paint a masterpiece every day,” — a great goal for us all both inside and outside of the classroom.

    Liked by 1 person

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