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Going & Growing Through the Struggle by Erin Vogler

The Struggle is Real

As I sit here playing with ideas for the focus of this month's post about being a teacher-writer, I am deeply entrenched in the struggles all writers face:

Which idea is worth my time?

Which idea will an audience care about?

Which topic am I ready to write about?

Then it dawns on me -- This very struggle I'm experiencing is where I should begin.

The struggle.

Because I am a teacher who writes, I don’t just say that writing is a struggle because I listen to the opinions and complaints of my students. (And believe me, the 8th and 10th graders I teach have A LOT to say about how hard writing is.)

I know writing is a struggle because I experience it for myself. I live it. Every. Single. Day.

Because I am a teacher who writes, I also know that struggle is an essential part of the process.

It can’t be skipped.

It’s necessary because that’s where the epiphanies happen -- those 'a-ha' moments, the clearing of the fog, the light in the dark.

In the midst of the struggle is where the growth occurs.

Building Empathy

Writing this blog post is hard.

Even though I have a lot of written words behind me, what I’m feeling right now is what most of my students feel every single time they’re asked to write.

But it's good that I am a teacher who writes. I truly believe there's a disconnect if, as a writing teacher, I’m not writing too,

I forget just how hard it is to get words from my head down onto the page.

When I write, I experience the struggle all writers -- including student-writers -- face.

And if I’m feeling the struggle this intensely, my students are feeling it tenfold (at least).

But it’s because I’ve seen the other side of this struggle that I also know that pushing through these feelings, these moments of self-doubt and fear, are worth it.

I know that if I persevere, the words will come. I will be proud of myself for not giving up.

And I can teach my students the same.

Learning Firsthand

In the classroom, it's easy to get frustrated with your student-writers.

When you do not frequently write yourself, you forget how hard it is to write. You begin to put writing in a box and have lots of ideas about how it should be easy or how it should be done. You put what your curriculum or some writing 'expert' tells you ahead of your own knowledge and judgment.

I know. I lived there for a while.

When you do write, however, the struggle becomes real. It opens your eyes to how much time, trial, error, feedback, and support it takes to write a piece you want to share with others.

Becoming a teacher-writer made me rethink everything about writing instruction in my classroom. I needed that and my students needed that too.

My teaching is better because of it.

Our writing is better because of it.

My journey to becoming a teacher-writer began by spending an entire marking period completing every single writing assignment I asked my students to complete. (Holy cow, was that an eye-opener!)

While this ambitious undertaking took a ton of time and effort, it changed everything about the way writing was taught in Room 3024.

Invite to Write

The best way to see what I mean is to give it a try yourself.

This month, I invite you to pick just one of the writing assignments you give to students and write it too.

See it through from the first word to the best draft, just as you would expect your students to do.

Write it to meet the highest of your personal and teacher expectations.

Write and revise it until you are proud.

When you do, I promise you’ll learn lessons about yourself and your writing process, as well as your instructional practices.

You’ll also see the struggles your students may face that you’d never see if you weren't writing alongside them.

You'll become a stronger writing teacher -- and teacher-writer -- for it.

Stepping Into the Struggle

Because I'm a teacher who writes, I've learned that struggle is a part of writing.

But I've also learned that it is not a sign we are doing something wrong or that we were never meant to be a writer.

It's quite the opposite.

When we struggle, we are growing into a better writer. We are problem-solving, growing our creativity, and digging deep.

We show our students what it means to be a writer.

I hope that putting words to my struggle may nudge YOU to step into the role of teacher writer.

To share words with your students.

To feel what they feel when they write.

To embrace the struggle.

If you do, it just might change everything.

Erin Vogler is a high school teacher in rural New York where she lives with her husband, her four furry four-legged friends, and her notebooks. Erin believes deeply in writing with her students because it is a constant reminder that writing IS hard and it keeps her instruction strong. When Erin is not writing or inspiring student-writers, she can be found trying to perfect her recipe for blackberry pie and taking hikes through the beautiful parks near her home. You can connect with Erin on her blog and on Twitter.


At Teach Write, we believe that teachers who write make the best teachers of writers.

We provide professional development, workshops, and education to help teachers connect their writing life to their writing instruction.

Through this blog, we share ways to help both you and your students grow as writers.

You can follow along with all Teach Write happenings by signing up for our email list, following us on Twitter, enrolling in a writing workshop in the Teach Write Academy, and by joining the Teach Write Community on Facebook.

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