My life is full of non-negotiables. I make my bed as soon as my feet hit the floor each morning. I never put in contacts or remove them without washing my hands first. I don't eat in my car. I could seriously go on and on. My school life is full of non-negotiables as well, and one of them is writing. I don't mean writing in other subject areas or in response to reading. I don't mean self-selected writing activities. Filling in blanks on worksheets, which I don't promote, doesn't count either. Grammar activities don't even come close. I mean a planned, daily, sustained writing time with a mini-lesson, followed by time to write and then share. That kind of writing is non-negotiable for our students. The craft of writing must be taught and practiced. It is an essential pathway to both reading and thinking.
A handful of years ago, a new basal series and a call to implement it arrived on my doorstep. Teachers were admonished and trained to use it with fidelity. I didn't quite jump on the bandwagon. Okay, I didn't even hop or budge. (But I had permission from my administrator. Insert smile.) From what I could tell and from what teachers were saying, following it with fidelity meant there wasn't much time for anything else. Something had to go. Unfortunately, for many, it was writing workshop. I don't know how many times I heard something to this effect. "I just don't have time for writing anymore." My internal response was, "How can that even be possible?" Prior to this, there had been a welcomed push to get Lucy Calkins and writing workshop into classrooms. When the basal moved in, Lucy moved to a spot on the shelf, and many writers spent their time with a scripted basal program instead. The good news is that the grip on fidelity (one of my least favorite educational words) has been loosened and addressing the importance of writing is back at the top of the list where it belongs.
All classrooms experience the give and take of new curriculum and programs. It's impossible to completely avoid the effects of such mandates, but one thing we should never hear ourselves say is, "I just don't have time for writing anymore." It's a non-negotiable.
P.S. I'm off to run 13.1 miles in downtown Seattle with my best friend and 20 to 30,000 strangers. Wish me luck!
(Look who we saw at our race expo yesterday.)