“Many teacher-leaders define their leadership operationally: they are leaders because they are department heads, or mentor teachers, or chairs of committees, or officers in professional organizations—leaders in the official sense. Yet we know, too, that there is leadership in myriad unofficial actions: in teaching well in a time of pressures toward ‘teaching-to-the-test,’ in standing up for a student who has exhausted many “last chances” already, or in persisting in teaching a frequently challenged text when it might be easier to self-censor. In these instances of teacher leadership, we see teachers not only taking responsibility for the operation of organizations, but also taking responsibility on a moral level—doing things because they are the right things to do, though difficult.” (Whitney & Baldiaili, 2010)

I have heard it said that acknowledgement and confession of a problem is the first step in recovery. No one ever told me how much courage that truly takes. It is terrifying to make myself so vulnerable to the potential scrutiny and judgment of my peers to make this confession, but if I truly want to take moral responsibility for doing the right thing in my classroom for my students, I have to start with a confession: I was so afraid of writing that I avoided it at all costs. There. I said it. The ugly truth. It gets worse. I was afraid of my own inadequacies as a writing teacher because I didn’t believe in the writing abilities of my students.

“Before this year, I admit that my writing instruction was mostly limited to how to answer essay questions found embedded in our reading comprehension exercises. I rarely, if ever, gave the students opportunities to have choices in their topics or types of writing, and definitely didn’t foster a love for writing with my students who do NOT see themselves as writers. I do not blame the lack of writing skills on anyone other than myself, because up to this point I haven’t had a clear plan of action to rectify this situation.” Opinion, Persuasion, and Argument! Oh, My!

I am learning to be an advocate for student “Writes.” I am also realizing that I have to believe in and be an active participant of the writing process.  I am gaining abilities to transfer what I value about writing to my students. The most important realization I have made is that engaging in the writing process isn’t perfect. It is messy and  changes radically according to audience, purpose, and genre. I have also realized that writing doesn’t flow from the end of a pencil into a finished product. By looking at what works, or more importantly what doesn’t, students can learn to approximate the craft of “better” writers. By giving my students choices in both topics and genres, I am really supporting them in all areas of writing.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “True Confessions

  1. Thank you Roxanne for your honesty. We all fall short in some way with regards to teaching ability. There is no such thing as a perfect teacher. I admire you for being willing to expose yourself to possible scrutiny and judgment, but to tell you the truth…I don’t like writing either. I would rather read than write any day, so at times it has been a struggle for me in pursuing a master’s. On the other hand, taking these courses have opened by eyes to a wide range of possibilities with regards to writing instruction that I can be doing in my classroom. The best thing I have discovered is that my students love all the new ideas and strategies I have used or tried out in my room. My students have benefited tremendously.

    It sounds like you also have benefited from all the writing courses we have taken from ASU. It sounds like you have become more willing to try new things in your classroom, to dive into writing with your students, to give them choices and to be there for your students during the writing process. The whole reason we are pursuing a master’s is to become better teachers and I feel you have become one Roxanne. You are going to do great things with writing in the years ahead.

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  2. Your quote from a previous blog –
    “Before this year, I admit that my writing instruction was mostly limited to how to answer essay questions found embedded in our reading comprehension exercises. I rarely, if ever, gave the students opportunities to have choices in their topics or types of writing, and definitely didn’t foster a love for writing with my students who do NOT see themselves as writers. I do not blame the lack of writing skills on anyone other than myself, because up to this point I haven’t had a clear plan of action to rectify this situation.”
    tells a story in itself. I think before these few writing classes, we were teaching to the test….at least I know I was, especially the mClass writing questions. I didn’t realize how much my students would learn just from writing what they wanted. I always felt like I had to give them something to write about and it had to meet the standardized testing expectations…boy, I was so wrong. If all teachers could experience somewhat of what we have, they would understand just how important writing every day is for each student.

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  3. I am always so happy to stumble upon your blogs. I pick them at random each week by the title or just by a click of the mouse where it lands. It is always a surprise who the author of the blog I am clicking is until I have already opened it. As always I am blown away by the choice of topic, word usage, and honesty in your posts. This post is one of courage and dedication. You might ask why I say that and my reply would be well…that’s simple. You have displayed pure courage by admitting that you weren’t performing up to certain standards. As you said in the beginning you had to be vulnerable and open to scrutiny from your peers because in your mind things weren’t as they should be. In your mind you were leaving out a portion of their instruction.

    I do not see that at all when I read this post! I see a teacher that is dedicated to her students. In fact she is so dedicated that she is willing to step out of her comfort zone and try something new in her classroom. Not only is she trying something new in her classroom, she is going against the crowd of others that are also not implementing these strategies because they are not directly on the end of grade tests. I see a teacher that has grown in immeasurable ways and that is so passionate about her students that she is willing to do what it takes to help them be successful. Most importantly I see a teacher that is now changing her teaching strategies to better prepare her students for a life beyond her classroom. What a movement it would be if these same strategies were carried on into following grades. What if we really began to teach students to write and read like writers do, what would happen to students if they changed the way they viewed themselves in this light from preschool through 12th grade?

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  4. I, too, feel guilty of not believing in my students. Even with my honors students, who I have been using my new strategies with, I really didn’t feel like they would “get” the point of multigenre writing, or that they would come up with very weak pieces. In our defense, when students don’t like to write, don’t see themselves as writers, or don’t have opportunities to write, it’s easy for us as teachers to not really give them credit. However, in this case, it’s a really great feeling to be proven wrong and to see them excel. I appreciate your honesty in your post Roxy!

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