Saturday, July 21, 2018

My Most Prized Teacher Possession

Twelve years ago one of my students gifted me with a blank, black leather-bound journal. As a teacher of writing, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit journaling has never been a daily practice of mine, so I had no special plan for its pages. And little did I know it would turn into my most prized teacher possession. Today I filled up the final page of that journal with my neat, tiny typewriter-like font. Now I feel the urge to celebrate - to say that I've done this cool but rare thing.

I might own the fastidious font, but the words in this journal belong to some of my favorite mentors: Regie Routman, Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, Donalyn Miller, Ralph Fletcher, Dave Burgess, and so many more. I have such a poor memory, but I rarely wonder what these gurus have said or where to find their words even months after I've read their books. It's all in one place - my quote journal. The additional time spent writing my favorite quotes in my journal after a professional read is well worth it. Instead of collecting dust on a shelf, their thoughts are within my reach, which means they're more likely to impact my practice. I have instant access to their best thoughts. 

In anticipation of this day, blank journal number two is waiting in the wings, and maybe, just maybe, there's a journal waiting for your font, neat or not, as well.

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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Saturday Sayings: Flummoxed by Choice

If you've been around my blog very long, sat through my writing PD, or read my book, Gatekeepers, you know how I feel about writing prompts. Simply put, I'm not a huge fan. So it's no surprise that when I teach teachers about writing, the topic of choice will come up. 

This week I had the opportunity to present my writing PD at a conference in Twin Falls, Idaho. When I shared the fact that my beliefs prevent me from buying a year's worth of writing prompts from TPT, a junior high ELA teacher expressed a valid concern. Her students don't know how to handle choice in writing when she attempts to offer it. I responded by saying that it's very possible her students don't know how to write without prompts, because from their elementary days on, they haven't been in a culture where that is the expectation. In other words, it's not their fault. 

In light of that conversation, I find it interesting that this morning I came across the following expert in 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. 

I think it's fair to say, Twin Falls is not the only place where students in the secondary classroom are "flummoxed by choice." Fortunately, skilled secondary writing teachers can turn this problem around, but I bet they'd jump for joy if we elementary teachers sent them writers who already knew how to handle choice with both ease and enthusiasm. 

I realize my views about prompts understandably make some writing teachers uncomfortable, especially if prompts were the norm throughout their education and continue to be so in the culture where they teach. I'm not here to bully anyone into abandoning all forms of writing prompts, but I would like to at least inspire teachers to ask, "Why?" and to consider what choice might do for their writers today and in the future. Will they be flummoxed or empowered?

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