Today I’m reminded of a quote a colleague recently shared from Pathway to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Chris Lehman and Mary Ehrenworth. Novelist and award-winning publisher, Margaret Atwood, was quoted on page 106.
“The fact is the blank page inspires me with terror. What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out? The trick is to sit at the desk anyway, everyday.”
I started the Slice of Life Blogging Challenge for the first time on March 1st. I have committed to writing everyday this month. It is now March 4th and I am at a loss as to what to write about. I, too, stare at the black page with terror. I could easily throw in the towel, but I believe in finishing what I start. So, I will just write and let something come to me.
As a teacher I implemented a reader/writer workshop approach in my classroom. I used to have a similar quote – “Conquer the power of the blank page” when my students sat frozen not knowing what to write. We generated a lot of topic ideas, but I also encouraged them to just get something written down. Those words can change, but if you don’t start you will still be left with nothing.
My love of the reader/writer workshop approach stemmed from taking part in the Iowa Writing Project many years ago. During the week-long summer project I experienced authentic writing – not just “school” writing. I wrote for real audiences – not just an assignment to be turned in, read by an instructor, and marked up with everything I had done wrong. It was invigorating! It was scary! It was real! After that experience I knew drastic changes were needed in my approach to teaching writers.
As an educator I believe in order to teach READERS, I must BE a READER. In order to teach WRITERS, I need to BE a WRITER. In order to expect others to be LEARNERS, I must BE a LEARNER!
I recently ran across a chart on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog that detailed the difference between assigning/teaching writing and teaching writers. Experiences like this Slice of Life Challenge are also providing us, as adult writers, to emulate aspects in the third column. We have developed long-term writing plans, we are figuring out the genre that will get our message across, we are reading and commenting on other blogs as a way to grow as writers, we revisit past writing, we may be using each others writing as mentor text, we are constantly self-reflecting and our blogs serve as our own writing portfolio! We are writers!
Yet, we are a handful of educators. There are many others who aren’t sitting down and struggling with the blank page each day this month. I appreciate the message in this short video clip by Dr. Steven Graham from Arizona State University. He encourages teachers to find opportunities to write, such as join a writing group. I would expand this thought to administrators, instructional coaches, curriculum directors – etc… We all must WALK THE TALK! As an aspiring administrator, I stated this blog several years ago for just that reason. I felt blogging would be a good opportunity for teachers and students to write for authentic audiences. I knew I needed to experience blogging first hand before I could expect teachers or students to incorporate blogging. That initial reasoning has turned into so much more. I am not just figuring out what blogging is all about so I can encourage others to blog. I am writing to encourage myself. I am writing to discover myself. I am writing to better myself. I am writing to contribute and make a difference in the world.
Tomorrow is a new blank page. What will I write? What will you write? Pick up a pen (or computer) and conquer the blank page!