“Teach the Writer, Not the Writing”

When I was in the 8th grade I was “dating” a guy (oh, junior high) who came from a strong science and math background. His dad played football for Colorado School of Mines, his mom played basketball for Colorado school of Mines, and it was his dream to earn an engineering degree from Colorado School of Mines as well. I had known since I was little that I wanted to be a teacher, and I remember one conversation where he tried to convince me that I could earn a teaching degree at CSM too (I’ll repeat myself— oh, junior high). After I got off the phone with him, I ventured out into our backyard where my mom was hanging up clothes on the line. She asked me how I was doing, and I told her that I was thinking about maybe becoming a science teacher. My mom was supportive, but even as the words were coming out of my mouth I knew that science wasn’t my passion. In my heart of hearts, reading and writing has always been what I wanted to share with the world.

I’m now nearing the end of my sophomore year of college. More than a half decade later I’m here, pursuing a career in English education. I’m over halfway done with my English classes, and over halfway done with my education classes. Each one has taught me something that has shaped the view of what I want my future classroom to look like. After a semester of studying the history, theories, and practices of writing, the course I am creating this post for has made me ponder my own educational views more than most.

Lucy Calkins

Sunflowers seemed fitting because in a little over three weeks a sunny summer vacation will arrive. Picture is my own, created through Canva.

My writing pedagogy can be succinctly described in the quote by Lucy Calkins seen above. It is my firm and fast belief that education is a living, breathing thing. Teachers and students are humans. The very essence of the knowledge that is transferred between these two parties is filled to the brim with a vibrancy that is humanity. Though the standardization movement has attempted to stifle this thriving exchange, it cannot be denied. To have curiosity, to pursue creativity, to have a desire to know more… that is learning.

As a teacher of writing, I want to nurture what is already there in my students— the individuality that makes them human. Writing is the way students can tap into their own unique ideas, thoughts, and opinions. If there is anything I have learned from this course, it is that everyone should have the ability to share their voice with the world through the written word because so many before us have not had that opportunity.

I understand that so far my pedagogy sounds rather abstract, so here is some application to go along with it. Rather than learning being a one-way street, in my classroom I want to equip my students with the ability to figure out their voice for themselves. I will encourage my students to explore all types of writing— poems, research papers, short stories, creative non-fiction, personal narratives, descriptive essays, flash fiction, journaling… anything and everything. I will also encourage my students to utilize the vast technology that is at their disposal, whether that means writing an essay based off of a podcast or using a computer to write emails to their favorite authors. Finally, I will encourage my students to take advantage of the world around them and the mind’s of their peers through writing workshop. I want my assignments to tap my students’ creativity and bring writing to life, showing them that it is so much more than five paragraphs.

Through it all I want to help my students understand that it is fine to make mistakes because what truly matters is that they become inspired by their own ideas. In my classroom, I desire to let students be themselves on paper. If their work doesn’t look like mine or their peers or whoever’s, the first thing I will say is, “That is a-okay.” Writing is messy, writing is emotional, writing is personal, writing is an art, and writing means something different to each and every person. This is what I want my students to take with them.

I don’t know if he is working towards an engineering degree, but I do know that my “boyfriend” of days past is now playing football for a school that, while still in Colorado, is decidedly not the Colorado School of Mines. As aforementioned, I am at a different school majoring in English education. I don’t think either of our future’s turned out to be exactly what we wanted them to be, but we are on the roads we are on for a reason. In fact, our story is a perfect example of what I want writing to be for my future students. Some of them will love science, some of them will love English; some of them will love working on cars, some of them will love painting; some of them will be indifferent, and some of them might claim they only have one true passion in an obscure field such as horology. How neat is that? Each student is their own person, with their own distinctive set of interests. Though it will be challenging, my goal as a teacher is to help each of these students mold writing to suit their own enthusiasm, vigor, and zeal. I will teach the writer, not the writing.


One thought on ““Teach the Writer, Not the Writing”

  1. Pingback: “Teach the Writer, Not the Writing” | Teaching the Writerly Life

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