Where does the writing fit?
From 1992-2008, I was an English Language Arts teacher at schools in Massachusetts, South Carolina and North Carolina. During those years, the question I pose above – “Where does the writing fit?” – wasn’t something I asked myself. During my 1st year of teaching, I encountered Nanci Atwell’s In the Middle, and from there on out, my primary goal was to help students become confident, independent readers, writers and thinkers who valued literacy and saw how it could enrich their lives. I encouraged students to pick their own books & supported them as they developed their own writing ideas. I conferenced with them about their pieces and chatted with them about the characters in their books. I also read and wrote with my students – I read along-side them during Sustained Silent Reading, I shared my favorite books during book chats, I modeled my own meaning-making strategies, I wrote with them during writing workshop, I shared excerpts from my journals, and I talked about myself as a “reader” and as a “writer”, hoping that my model would help them claim their own reader/writer identities. I knew where writing fit into my life (I was a prolific diary-keeper in the 90s and the volunteer editor of a feminist magazine for teen girls) and I wanted them to find where it fit into theirs.
In 2003, I became involved with the National Writing Project through the UNC Charlotte Writing Project (UNCCWP) site, first as a conference-attendee and later as a teacher consultant and teacher researcher. Through UNCCWP, I became a part of a community of teachers who, like me, had no trouble answering the question “Where does the writing fit?” In fact, my Writing Project community showed me that writing fit into my classroom and into my life in ways I had yet to imagine. They pushed me to dig deeper into my personal writing and helped me explore how my writing might fit into larger conversations about education going on in journals and in books. They supported me as I spent five years developing a teacher inquiry project on group work into an article on student collaborations & progressive discourse that was eventually published in the English Journal in 2010.
During that time, I had no doubt that I was a writer and that my writing mattered, but in recent years I've no easy answer to "Where does the writing fit?". In 2008, I left the classroom to take a position as the Academic Facilitator/IB Coordinator at a middle school. Now that reading and writing are no longer the focal points of my days, I struggle to find ways to make writing -- my writing and the writing of others – a part of my work & my life. I write far less than I used to -- and I'm not reading much about education-related/writing-related topics either -- mostly because I haven’t come across other educators who are discussing the things I worry about these days. I’m not sure where my voice fits into the larger education conversations anymore.
So, that’s what brings me here to this space. This week I am participating in the UNCCWP’s Advanced Institute – a week during which experienced Teacher Consultants come together to develop inquiry projects, work on their writing, and develop presentation proposals. My goal this week -- reconnect with my writer self (a.k.a. get off my butt and start writing again).
The theme for this year’s institute is “Researching Digital Literacies: Finding, Joining and Negotiating Professional Conversations”. On Monday, our facilitator, Lacy Manship, introduced us to DIGITAL IS. As I began digging into the site, reading through the resources and blog posts I thought, “Hmmm…maybe this is a space for me to explore where the writing fits. Maybe I can find – or start – the kinds of conversations I want/need to have in this space.”
And so, here I am – putting up my first blog post and starting my on-line inquiry into WHERE the writing fits into my work – HOW writing might support what I do in schools – and WHO might want to join in my conversations with myself. I want to use this space to tell some stories about the work I do now -- stories I can learn from -- and perhaps stories others will want to hear.
I am grateful for this digital space that makes this sort of inquiry possible -- thanks to all of you who may choose to join in with me. You should be hearing more from me soon.