Kean University Writing Project- ISI
Teacher Inquiry Workshop- Reflection
Further Teacher Inquiry
I knew all along that I wanted my TIW to showcase the impact that modeling the writing process can have on student writing. While my focus is on narrative writing, I also believe this can translate to other genres as well. In my mind, however, this concept was much more than just a simple line or paragraph crafted in front of the students to demonstrate a particular skill or strategy. Modeling, as I defined it, was teachers immersing themselves into the writing process alongside their students in a way unlike ever before. Going through the process, no matter how messy, and revealing a part of ourselves is the underlying foundation of my TIW. No matter what the grade level, I strongly believe the benefit to the students would be immense. This is the practice that has led me to fall in love with teaching writing.
When I think about it, it doesn’t make any sense for me to NOT use this practice. Imagine a lesson about brainstorming ideas for a personal narrative. There are a number of strategies I would teach my students to use. How could I not try them out for myself to see whether or not they actually “work?” If I tell them drawing a picture of their neighborhood or other memorable place will conjure up great inspiration for stories to share, how could I not draw a picture of my old neighborhood and see what comes to mind? This practice continues throughout my teaching and I am consistently amazed by the results. By the same token, if I teach a lesson using a mentor text as inspiration, the heart of the lesson is still the teacher modeling, as I have explained it, that takes center stage. I do not always produce fantastic writing samples, and the work is draining, but it’s necessary work. Even through my falters and stumbles, the students gain valuable insight into the process of writing. Also, the learning process is recursive, moving from teacher to student and vice-versa throughout.
As educators, it is often difficult to think of our students as “knowing more,” or being “more capable” than ourselves. Writing is like playing sports, in some ways. There is an undeniable natural ability in some, but that ability must be honed and refined. Is it not common for a coach to train an athlete that has more raw talent that him/herself? To think that we will always be the best writer in the room is a disservice to our students. It is our job to “coach” our students into becoming authors. Like in sports, our young authors must be guided to practice, understand technique and demonstrate continued effort if they are to be successful.
In addition to moving back and forth between the stages of writing with the class, I hold that teachers need to be willing-at least on some level-to tell their own personal stories. I understand there is a certain amount of reserve that we, as teachers, must uphold. However, much literature about composition studies fails to recognize this one simple component, which I am certain is essential in the teaching of writing: teachers must write! Writing is a humanities subject in the truest sense of the word. With literature as its counterpart, writing studies is a reflection on and of the human experience. Teachers bring to the classroom that human element that has not, or cannot, be written into the curriculum.
I now have a better understanding of why I tried to include too many revision strategies into my TIW lesson. It was never really about showcasing any one particular tool I have found to be successful with my students. My lesson was really about demonstrating what revising can look and feel like. To revise, whether it be to bring out a deeper meaning using figurative language or realistic dialogue, means to be vulnerable and trust in the process. I think we can all agree that there is no “one right way” to teach writing to others, but, perhaps, “teaching” ourselves how to write will, in turn, teach our students.