Why I Teach Writing: My Philosophy

When I entered the first year of my teacher preparation, I thought I had my teaching philosophy all figured out.  I had based my idea of teaching on that of my high school English teacher whom I loved and adored.  I wanted to be the next Ms. D just like a little league baseball player might want to be the next Mike Piazza or David Wright.  She was spunky and fun and made even the least interested student interested in what we were covering on any particular day.  But as I entered my own training, I discovered that there is so much more to teaching than just having your students enjoy your class.

Albert Einstein said, “I never teach my pupils.  I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they learn”.  A successful teacher always tries to engage his or her students.  Those that stand at the top of the class and merely speak through the lecture are speaking to blank canvases more or less.  We want our students to have spent their time with us packed with knowledge, interest, motivation, and creativity- a busy canvas if you will.  And the only way to do that is to provide the best learning environment possible and teaching beyond the test for what is truly important.

A large part of teaching English involves teaching writing.  Though many students don’t realize it at the time, this is a skill that is used from their time in school until the end of their lives.  How many other teachers have the opportunity to teach a skill like that?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on using the Pythagorean theorem when I’m well into my 90’s (no offense to the math teachers out there- we love you!) but I do intend to write, whether it be through a letter or starting that novel I’ve been planning to write, so we must make sure that when we teach writing, we do it correctly.  Writing is essential to every single student’s future and I plan to ensure that I do everything in my power to empower and teach them along the way.

What is writing?
According to the NCTE, “writing refers to the act of creating composed knowledge”.  This covers all aspects of writing, whether it be in the traditional format, a lab report, or in recent times, a text or Twitter post.  When a student writes something other than a standard essay that will only be shown to the teacher who assigned the assignment, he or she is most often writing to an intended audience, whether that be themselves, their teacher, or someone in particular such as a congressman.  The student must be able to adjust their tone and or vocabulary to suit each audience. When we do this, we are practicing authentic writing, the most common form of writing. If you are new to this term, authentic writing is defined as, “real writing, written for a real audience, for a real purpose, in a real forum”. I believe authentic writing is the most important type of writing because it is something the students will use for the rest of their lives. It is also a powerful tool that can change the world.

MY TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

When I finally enter the world of teaching, I want to ensure that I am providing my students with all of the necessary tools to be a writer. Not everyone thinks they can be a writer, but they can, and I have a few ideas as to how I will prove this to them.

I want my students to experiment with different genres of writing, find their comfort zone, write freely, and in turn, improve their writing skills.

All too often, students are assigned dreary writing assignments that do nothing to improve their writing. Writing should be fun and not a chore. Amy Worob, a blogger that I follow on Writers Who Care, shares my opinion. She states, “Writers write. And writers become better writers by writing (and reading). So often students are asked to write about something without actually trying the writing themselves. They write a lot of response paragraphs and essays, but how often do they write something that is of their own creation?” I believe it is important to give students the freedom to choose a genre that suits them. Whether it be fiction, a graphic novel, screen play, or a twitter feed, I want to allow them to choose a genre they are comfortable with because no matter what, they are practicing their writing and expressing their views and creativity. And of course, I’ll be there to show them various writing techniques throughout their search for the genre that suits them. Who knows, maybe I’ll have the next Stan Lee in my class!

I will show my students that writing is a process, even for veteran writers.

We are all humans and we all mistakes. Shakespeare didn’t roll of bed into his 9th grade class and write Hamlet, I can assure you. Perfecting the art and skill of writing takes practice, time, mistakes, and sometimes tears (not talking anyone in particular here- ok it’s me!). Ken Lindblom and Leila Christenbury explain the writing process as “messy, halting, and recursive”. Because of this, the process can seem quite daunting for the inexperienced writer. Rather than overwhelming my students, I will use Ken and Leila’s POWER-P model and lay out the necessary steps to gather their thoughts and put pen to paper. I don’t intend on making this a robotic, rigorous process for my students, but something they will learn to appreciate and eventually do naturally.

In the PREWRITING stage, writers gather their ideas and research and develop it into their main idea for whatever it is that they’re writing. Assigning Writing to Learn assignments throughout the school year can help students prepare for the prewriting stages by generating ideas and learning about particular topics.

The writer will then ORGANIZE their information into the structured format, often using a mentor text as guidance.

In the WRITING stage, the student writes their first draft.

The students must then EVALUATE their writing both on their own and through peer evaluations. I cannot stress how important peer evaluations are when done correctly. When another set of eyes reads your work, often times, those eyes will find either mistakes or things that could be explained better. Let your students know that this is a step that ALL writers go through.

Once the students have evaluated their papers, it is time to REVISE. In class peer response group work is also very helpful at this stage. Once the student is content with their work, onto the next stage!

PUBLISHING!

When we get into the car for a drive, we always have a destination to go to. If we didn’t, why would we get in the car in the first place? The same can be said for writing. I want to give my students an incentive to put 100% into their writing and I can do that by having them publish their work. Ken and Leila suggest school newspapers, blogs, or being read out loud to a real audience. I want writing to be something that my students enjoy and something that they are proud of.

In conclusion

I don’t want to be known as the teacher who made class fun for 42 minutes a day, 5 days a week, 38 a weeks a year. Sure, they might remember funny Mrs. Daly from years ago, but what else will they remember? I want to have an impact on my students. They don’t need to necessarily remember me personally, but I want them to remember what I’ve taught them and to be able to use those skills to enrich their lives and possibly others. Some will take what I’ve taught them and teach others, some might incite change through their writing in their community or even the world. Whatever they choose to do, I want to know that they can do it because I’ve done my job. And if they still think I’m funny…. hey… it’s an added bonus.

Teachers can help change the world one student at a time.

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