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What a Writer Needs by Lindsey Lush

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Picture the scene:

It’s 2 years ago, I’m sitting at the kitchen table, face aglow with the blue light from the computer screen, surrounded by stacks of teacher’s editions and reference texts, planning next week’s lessons.

With a sigh, I drag materials for my last teaching block toward me. This is the one I've been putting off: Writing.

My stomach sinks, my eyes well with tears, and I slump in my chair as the realization hits me.

I hate teaching writing.

For 14 years of teaching elementary school, I’d loved teaching writing. I enthusiastically sought mentor texts, planned mini-lessons, read students’ stories and poems, and inhaled the latest tools from Ralph and Katie.

I was a writer.

I was a teacher of writers.

Writing was part of my identity.

How, then, after years of happily teaching writing, did I find myself gazing out of my rain spattered window with the ballad from Top Gun crooning in the background, all of my writerly identity lost? You know the one. I’d lost that loving feeling, y’all. It was gone, gone, gone.

Whoa, whoa, whoa-oh.

Looking back I can see that I’d experienced the loss of three of a writer’s most important needs: community, trust, and choice.

Writers Need Community

All writers, student-writers included, need a supportive community to do the hard work that comes along with writing.

We need time with our writing peers.

We need our edu hashtags and Facebook groups.

We need new ideas from our favorite authors.

I’d been isolated from my communities through a combination of a competitive testing environment, an overload of frivolous expectations that occupied time for collaboration, and a curriculum that left little room for interpretation.

I was alone.

Without a community, writers don’t have inspiration, encouragement, and courage to take risks.

I didn’t. And as a result, my practice turned stagnant and dull.

Writers Need Trust

When a writing teacher is handed a day-by-day, scripted package of writing lessons and is expected to implement it to the letter, we feel a lack of trust from our administration.

Trust that I, as a professional educator, am prepared to learn from my students, teach them what they are ready to learn, and support them in their progression as writers.

Trust that I, as a writer, understand how to support another writer’s struggles, goals, and needs.

When my daily instruction was required to match that of the script I’d been handed, I didn’t feel trusted to make instructional decisions in my classroom,

I stopped feeling like a writer.

And without being a writer myself, I wasn’t creating a classroom of writers each day.

When I identified as a writer who teaches writing, I felt trusted. I trusted myself. My administration trusted me. In turn, I trusted the writers in my care to write, learn, and grow.