“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.