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Last night I spent time with the Eastern Michigan Writing Project #nwp and we talked about a few things.

1. English classrooms do not look like other classrooms. Students are not all doing the same things: we are making art out of the individual ingredients of our lives.
2. When we write what we ask our students to write we find the blind corners in our planning--can project where some of the problems will be for students. Teacher writing is not extra; it's essential.
3. We show students one way to work as writers: we model the messy, challenging way that we found to craft meaning. Our authentic joy in struggling to write well TEACHES.
4. Conferring is not a strategy, it creates classroom culture. It invites humanity. Our connections with individual writers are what everything else depends on. The conference is where you listen, encourage, problem-solve, & show your confidence in student thinking.
Once in awhile I do what Don Graves suggested, I sit beside a bound up writer, open my notebook, and show my struggle. I then say, "Thank you for letting me take this pause from teaching to think about my own writing more. I hope I didn't disturb you."
The student might say, "Oh, you didn't disturb me, I've got nothing..." and the conference begins. Or the student might ask, "What is your writing about?" And I say, "I don't know yet. I have threads of possibility, but I feel lost." A student says, "I feel you..." and we talk.
When I say "use your process and writing to teach" it is because of these small moments of authentic conversation that help give writers the courage to wade through the shallow water at the shore of a big idea.
5. It is not a big idea for a writer if WE choose it. The big-ness of an idea comes from the writer who has lived the truth of something & must address it. When we choose the topic, we reduce the intellectually rigorous act of writing to a task, a fill-in-the-blank mentality.
Angela Duckworth said, "Perseverance without passion is mere drudgery. Resist the urge to jump in and help them when they're struggling to do things and seem to be doing them the wrong way. Trial and error is a slower but usually better teacher than direct instruction."
6. The practice of finding mentor texts and choosing them because you see important craft moves strengthens you, the teacher. Your authority in the classroom is deepened by your knowledge of what you are teaching. I study a text for craft, and I learn more. Every time.
7. About voice: how dare we eliminate the "I" in writing? What are we trying to erase? Don Murray said, "We seek diversity, not proficient mediocrity," but too often we don't give students the tools to practice their many individual voices, tuned to the writing task & audience.
8. The school wide standardization of grading systems is bad for reading & writing classrooms. Dictating two grades a week does not increase feedback, it interrupts our process teaching for short term pretend measures of "achievement." Portfolios help writers reflect & grow.
9. "Art is earned by hard work, by the study of form, by obsessive revision Only then are you set free. Only then can you see." from Robin Oliveira's book I Always Loved You about Degas and Cassatt: my current obsession.
10. Go and write YOUR life. And share. What power lies in your hands.
#writebesidethem #180days
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