We would love to have you join Allison and me from 11-12pm as we talk about bringing play back to the secondary English classroom through Notebook Time. Here’s a post we wrote for The Educator Collaborative and a little bit of what you can expect in our session!
Every year, on the first day of school, we end class by handing a Post-It note to each student and inviting them to pose an anonymous question — about our class, about our outside-of-school lives, about us as teachers, about anything they would like.
They are timid at first, wondering if the free and open invitation is real. Then, after a few moments, they begin pouring out their wonderings. And many of these wonderings are fears:
“How much writing will we do this year?”
“Are you a hard grader?”
“Will writing count as a big portion of our grade in this class?”
“How do you want me to write?”
“What kind of writing do you like?”
Somehow, somewhere in their education, they have learned that writing has a formula that is regulated by a series of invisible checklists. They have learned that writing is black or white, right or wrong. And they have learned that those metrics change teacher to teacher.
And have you read the writing by these same students? It’s careful. Strategic. Stilted. Lifeless. Inauthentic.
This isn’t what we want for our student writers. We want them to be daring explorers and brave pioneers of their own experiences and ideas. We want them to take on new territory, experiment with words, even take a risk that doesn’t pan out every once in awhile. In A Writer Teaches Writing, Donald Murray asserts that “behind each writing purpose is the secret excitement of discovery: the word, the line, the sentence, the page that achieves its own life and its own meaning. The first responsibility of the writing teacher is to [help students] experience this essential surprise” (8).