What a Writer Needs by Lindsey Lush
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.
Writers Need Choice
Writers need choice in order to explore their creative impulses. Decisions about mode of writing, tools to use, and topic allow writers to connect to their writing.
Being told what lesson to teach and how it is to be taught is the death of a writer’s choice.
Being told what to write and how it should be expressed will make writing a task to “get finished” rather than a chance to express ideas.
Finding What I Need
My story of losing my love of writing and for teaching writing is a painful one to tell. Although it's been a few years, I haven’t fully recovered yet.
But I'm getting there.
I’ve found a writer-teacher community in the Teach Write Time to Write Workshop and the #100DaysofNotebooking Facebook group that abounds with creativity, shared experience, and encouragement. I turn to them to hear of their adventures in writing and to find the courage to have my own.
I am now employed under a new administration that exhibits trust in my professional decisions. I am relearning to trust myself as a writing teacher.
I feel curious again. I am making choices about my writing experiences. I’m inspired to learn more about myself as a writer and writing teacher.
On my path back to writing, I’ve seen how community, trust, and choice have rekindled my writing-teacher love.
It took losing my love to come to terms with what I needed most and to begin actively seeking those sources of support.
What about your writing love story? How have community, trust, and choice created a writing love for you?
What do you need, writer?
Lindsey Lush has taught elementary school in Athens, Georgia for 16 years. She spends her days inventing read aloud voices, singing her thoughts, and dancing around a classroom. Her greatest passion is teaching love, kindness, and acceptance through writing and children’s literature. She is also a part of the Teach Write Time to Write Workshop. Her writing loves include notebooking, poetry, and sketchnoting. Follow her blog at https://forloveoftheclass.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter @LushLindsey.