• Jennifer Laffin

5 Ways I Became a Teacher-Writer (& You Can Too!) by Donnetta Norris



We all know that we are more effective at teaching the things we know a lot about.


So many teachers have a vibrant reading life and because they do, it really enriches their reading instruction.


But how about writing? Are teachers who write more effective writing teachers?


I believe they are.


However, I don’t know very many teachers who write. Do you?


I wonder why.


Maybe it's school or family responsibilities, a lack of time, being unsure of how to begin, or not knowing what to write that holds teachers back from writing.


But having experience with writing will make your experience with teaching writing so much more enriching and rewarding for both you and your students!


So, what are some actions we can take toward becoming teacher-writers, leading us on a journey toward becoming better writing teachers?



Here are 5 things that have helped me grow as a writer - as a teacher-writer - and I believe they can work for you, too:


  • Start writing in a notebook: When I made the decision to get serious about writing, I recycled an old composition notebook my son used for drawing. I started writing on the next clean page. I carried my notebook in my purse and took it everywhere. This meant I could jot down my thoughts, highlights from the day, and writing ideas before I forgot them. Carrying my notebook with me also meant I could share my writing with my Scholars in my classroom. Carry a notebook with you for one day. I think you will be surprised by how much you can write.


My first notebook


  • Search for opportunities to write: The Teach Write Time to Write Workshop, Kate Messner's Teachers Write Summer Camp, Two Writing Teacher's Slice of Life Challenge, and Sarah Donovan's monthly poetry challenges are all opportunities that exposed me to different aspects of writing, such as imitating authors’ craft, writing poetry, focusing on a small part of my day, and being held accountable to my goals; none of which I would have come to know had I decided not to participate. Seek out opportunities for yourself and you'll see what I mean.



  • Commit to writing something every day: A word, a sentence, random thoughts, current feelings, lists...it all counts as writing. I have made this very commitment to myself, and it has helped me to show up to the page most days. I have learned to give myself grace if I miss a day. I simply pick up my pen and notebook again right away. You will also need to give yourself grace if you miss a day. Life happens. Pick up your pen, open your notebook, and write right away if you miss a day. Writing is not about having a perfect streak, but about getting your words on the page. I invite you to promise yourself to show up to the page and write.



  • Write for yourself first then share when you feel comfortable: When I first started writing, I did not initially share any of my writing. I worried about the “what-ifs”. I worried about what other writers would think. I allowed fear to keep my writing hidden. At the same time, I was making goals for 2020, Michelle Haseltine introduced the idea for the #100DaysofNotebooking challenge, asking notebookers to post a picture of their notebook page in her Facebook group. I made the conscious decision to be vulnerable and share my writing. Most of the feedback I received showed me that my words have value, and sometimes gave others writing ideas. I believe you have a story that needs to be told. I believe your words have value, and there is someone who needs to read what you have to offer. Challenge yourself to write and to accept that your words have value and deserve to be read.



  • Surround yourself with others who write and who will encourage you toward your goals: I belong to a community of writers who have been an integral part of my growing confidence as a writer. Much of the reason why I have gained so much confidence in my writing is because of the positive feedback and encouragement I receive from the writers in the Teach Write Academy Time to Write Online Workshops. This writing group offers time to write, accountability, and goal-setting to keep you growing as a writer. Check the Teach Write, LLC webpage for a plethora of teaching ideas, resources, and writing workshops. You are invited to enroll in a Time to Write Workshop to connect with other writers like yourself.


I am convinced that the benefits of being a teacher who writes have far-reaching and long-lasting implications for us as the teacher and for our students.


As a teacher-writer, you can practice the skills and processes that students-writers need to learn.


You can gain insight into what effective writing instruction can look like in the classroom.


You will be better equipped to respond to and guide student-writers through the struggles they may experience because you will have experienced some of the same struggles.


Imagine the pride you will feel as you grow stronger and more confident as a writer. Now imagine being able to help your student-writers experience that sense of pride and confidence in their own writing.



I challenge you to begin your writing journey today. Join me!




Donnetta Norris is a 2nd-grade teacher in Arlington, TX. She is a regular participant in the Teach Write Time to Write Workshop. You can follow her on Twitter at @NorrisDonnetta. 







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