The fervor with which I began this writing project this summer may look to have greatly diminished if you look at the last time I posted to my blog. In fact, I have still been writing. My blog motivated me to work on writing my novel (although admittedly I have been slipping a little on that goal a bit since school resumed as well), and it is nowhere near the point of sharing it with any audience. I tinker, and tear it apart, and then build, and then change my mind again. But I have been writing everyday since school began, just with a different ilk.
Inspired by the work of Penny Kittle, an educator and author from New Hampshire; I have been writing with my students as she suggests in her book Write Beside Them. Never before in my career have I seen the effect of a pedagogical shift more profoundly than I have since I set out to mirror some of Kittle’s suggestions. Admittedly, I was at first intrigued by the idea of myself as a writer who had long abandoned honing my own craft in favor of becoming a teacher who simply revises and reworks the papers of my students. Kittle inspires teachers to see themselves as writers, and to engage in the writing processes they assign their students. Suddenly, I saw writing as something we would do together; not something I would do to them, assigning tasks and red-penning their final copies. I was excited about the process of preparing for my class knowing I would be writing as well. I took great pride in crafting a collage in my own writer’s notebook to show the students before I insisted they also create one to inspire their own writing. I took the time to find the pictures that I felt really helped to articulate visually the people and things that are most important to me. In turn, I had wonderful conversations with my students as they took the time to privately share their collages with me. I got to know my students more intimately in that first week than I have in any opening assignment I have ever tried. I relished having private conversations with my students as they opened their private notebook and shared a view of themselves.
Everyday we do ‘quick writes’ from a series of prompts I find (some are serious, others are quirky, several are thoughtful– they materialize in photos, words, videos, and songs). The activity is timed, five minutes: quick. Afterwards we make time to share our ideas, work through our struggles with writing and illuminate our moments of brilliance. I have had the opportunity to intimate regarding my own process, revealing when and where I struggle with a piece and also sharing when things go well. Equally, they have been thoughtful about their word choice and working on developing their ideas and wonderful in dabbling in a variety of genres. I have been absolutely thrilled to see where they excel. Many of their quick drafts have been brilliant and have truly inspired me.
I have their writer’s notebooks home with me this weekend to take a peek at the process they have made in our first month together and give them some feedback. Likely that is what inspired me to return to my blog and try to get some of my own thoughts down. By no coincidence I presume, I also note that November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in which participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word work of prose between November 1 and Novemebr 30. I have barely had time to put up a blog post in the whirlwind that is September. I just barely finished putting the last of my comments and feedback on a pile of writing assignments. How could I possibly even consider the idea of writing a novel in a month? Even a bad one (which the contest implies is the most likely result). Not sure. But I do have a Writer’s Notebook full of the same things I promised my students: ideas, notations, some good words, some false starts– but a veritable cure for writer’s block.