I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
I woke up not really sure what I would write about today. That happens a lot on Tuesdays, and somehow something always gets written. It's not always great, but it's writing. When I was at a loss for a topic this morning, I started reading blog posts instead, and this one by Christopher Lehman started me thinking. Chris wrote this: I find the question--is your heart visible--is an important one. What we make visible in our classrooms, in our schools, even in our lives, shows what we value, what is important, and what we feel and believe. I started thinking about my classroom and know one thing for sure. Books are definitely visible. I value books. They're everywhere, and my students, friends, family, and colleagues know it. If someone needs a book, I most likely have it - at school or home. If I don't, it's probably checked out or borrowed. If I really don't have it, by golly, I'll try to have it next time you ask! My students read, read, read. However, something my heart values that I don't see as visible in my classroom as books is WRITING.
In 1991, when I started teaching language arts, I had just finished the Ohio Writing Project, and I was on fire for the writing workshop model. Our OWP gurus were Nancie Atwell, Donald Graves, and Lucy Calkins. Tom Romano taught at Miami University. I jumped into the full workshop model with both feet and never looked back. I loved it. My students were producing beautiful writing, and we were fully immersed in it. I have to admit, though, that back then my reading instruction was not as good as it is now. I taught many whole class books, and not very many at that, and I didn't have a classroom library. We did activity packets around those classic novels, too. I do remember valuing independent reading and choice, but still, it wasn't what it is today. After five years in the classroom from 91-96, I stayed home with my two daughters for eight years. When I came back to teaching, the workshop model had changed. Creative writing had gone by the wayside (and even criticized) to make room for academic writing and concentrating on short pieces. High stakes testing had made its way into schools, and long blocks and team teaching had disappeared. Focus seemed to be more on reading because that's what was tested. There was some value in those writing changes, but I have to say, I missed the writing workshop model. However, I adapted, and as a result, felt like I lost my writing heart.
In the last couple years, as I've started blogging, writing for Choice Literacy, working on a book project, and journaling, my own writing spirit has awakened. I used to write a lot in the past, but I had stopped. I know I have students who have writing hearts, and I haven't given them enough space. It's not that we don't write - we do. But we don't write ENOUGH. And I don't give them enough room to write what they want to write. I have 60 minutes a day with them. How can I show them that I have a heart for writing as well as reading, and let them show their hearts, too? I'm not sure - that time seems so limiting to do everything the way I want to - but I know I want to see more slices of life in that classroom!