This week a few teacher friends observed one of my writing workshop sessions. When I met with them later in the week, they commented on a specific conferring moment I had with one of my writers. They talked about what a great writer he was. Little did they know he has been my most reluctant writer and thinker of the year. They were completely surprised and never would have guessed that writing workshop typically induces his pout-pout face, helplessness, and very little output. That is, until very recently when he started believing me when I say, "You can do this."
Honestly, it hasn't been a pain-free process. From my observations, formative assessments, and conversations with his kindergarten teacher, I knew he had all the tools to pull this off. He simply had a can't-do or don't-want-to-do problem blocking his way. In some respects, that can be more frustrating than the child who is a can-doer but doesn't have enough tools in their toolbox yet.
When he repeatedly acted like there was nothing on the planet he could ever write about, I reminded him that writers write about things they like to do and moments that happen to them and left him to it. When he dragged his feet about not knowing what to say about his pictures, I reminded him that writers look at their pictures for details and left him with the assumption that he'd figure it out. When he acted like there was no possible way he could spell the words, I reminded him, "If you can say it, you can write it," and off I went. I consistently refused to pamper or do the work for him (it was obvious that's what he really wanted from me) but instead repeatedly said, "You can do this."
The point is that now he looks nothing like the writer I saw just a few weeks ago, so much so that observers in my room think he's one of my best writers. He finally believes me. I can't wait to tell him, "Remember those two teachers who visited last week? They were so impressed with what a great writer you are." Triumph changes everything.