One Teacher's Story: How Writing Helps Me Be a Better Writing Teacher

One of the things we believe here at Teach Write is that teachers who write make the best teachers of writers. Today, we share with you one teacher's experience with being a writer and how that deepened her ability to teach writing and empathize with her student writers.

Yesterday my colleague, Mary, stopped by my office and asked me to look over her daughter Isabel’s writing. I could tell from the way Mary approached me that she was upset about the score Isabel received.

I read over the narrative several times, carefully rereading for each lens on the rubric. When I went to share my findings with Mary, I did not mention numbers. I shared how great it was that Isabel began with action thus writing a lead that pulled me into her story. I noted that she is making great attempts to use dialogue in her writing. Still, Mary’s eyes welled with tears when she recounted how hard Isabel worked on her piece and how discouraged she felt when she earned a score of 68%.

How crushing! As a parent, my heart went out to Mary. As a teacher, writer and mom, my heart ached for Isabel. Isn’t the goal of writing workshop to grow confident, independent writers? Writing takes tremendous courage! We make ourselves vulnerable when we write. We share a part of ourselves that we created, take a deep breath and hope it will be well received. Imagine being 8 and doing this? Imagine if the story is incredibly raw and personal? How can we give a child a percentage score on something they poured their heart into?

These thoughts swirled in my mind and then I stopped myself in my tracks and thought, “How many times have I sat down with a stack of student writing and plowed through them diligently checking each item on the rubric and assigning them a grade? How often have I felt the pressure of providing grades for the grade book and lost sight of the writer in front of me?”

Like Isabel’s teacher, I had the best of intentions. Yet, this experience made wonder: What it the true purpose of grading and specifically, assessment?