In April I wrote, “I Wish I Didn’t Want to be a Teacher,” and it went viral. (Well, I don’t actually know the definition of viral, but as far as anything that I’ve ever written goes, the 100,000 views and publication at the Huffington Post puts it at the viral level in my books.)
Amidst the encouraging comments and shares and exciting buzz, there were a handful of negative comments. Quite a few people asked, “how do you have time to blog while teaching?!” Most of these questions were passive aggressive, suggesting that I was being irresponsible/bringing personal work into the classroom. I have three responses to this question. Number one, I wrote that article as a student teacher, there were days when I had more time than I knew what to do with. So to put it eloquently, hop off. Number two, I wrote that part of that post while in the classroom. What writer sits down and writes a whole piece to perfection in one sitting? Maybe some do, but certainly not me, and that’s not the writing process we teach our students either. I started that post in the classroom, and finished it sitting on my bed, where most of my writing happens.
Thirdly, and this is the more important response, it is important and valuable for us, as teachers, to write in the classroom. More than that, it is important for us to showcase to our students all of the skills that we are trying to convince them are important to hold on to as lifelong learners. If I tell my students that writing is valuable, and then they never see me writing, what are my words worth?
I write in the classroom because I want my students to see the power that words hold. I write in the classroom because I want to invite my students in to a world made better by the responsible expression of feelings. I want my students to live in a world where they know they can be heard, where they know that words will bring about power and freedom and joy and change.
I have a confession: right now, as I type this, I am….in the classroom. There are students in here, *gasp* and they are engaged in their own writing projects. They walk up to me and ask what I’m writing about, and I walk up to them and ask what they’re writing about. When I was published on the Huffington Post, we shared that joy together and I read it aloud to them. They have asked me several times this week I have written anything new yet, and many of them have explored my blog on their own time. Yesterday I was able to share a piece of my writing with a student to use as a mentor text, and it was so exciting for both of us.
I write in the classroom because our classroom is a community in which we take risks, chase our dreams, and share our true selves with each other. My true self is my best self, and I want to share my best self with my students. And my true self, my best self, is full of ideas and words and phrases that just must be written down. And what a valuable experience it is for ten and eleven year olds to firsthand witness the compulsive habits of someone who finds identity in being a writer.
It is widely accepted that everyone learns differently, so why is it so hard to accept that everyone teaches differently? I cannot imagine teaching in a class restricted by four walls and everyone else’s idea of what teaching should be.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to go conference with a student about my writing before it’s published.