I had a revelation during NCTE this year, I forgot how to teach writing. I forgot that in order for students to learn they have to be able to see the writing in their own words, voices, and hearts. Sometimes in our haste to teach students we end up helping them too much. I realized that I had been helping too much. I had been giving too many comments, too much feedback, and in the process I somehow shifted the power from them back to me. Not good.
It’s scary to put that on our students sometimes. To say to them “It’s your writing, you decide.” But there’s a very fine line between the spirited writing coach and fellow writer that I aspire to be and the heavy handed teacher that communicates there is only one “right” way to do things. It’s easy to slip sometimes because we have the benefit of years and years of experience.
So I went back. I went back to showing how I savor mentor texts. I went back to asking more questions and listening. I went back to saying “It’s your writing, you decide.” And in going back I freed myself of the stress I’d been feeling. I didn’t need to go in and help them fix every little thing, I just needed to help them find the heart of what they were trying to say. We would get to the rest, we would get to as much as we could. We would do it on their terms.
I stopped worrying about teaching writing and started thinking about teaching my writers.