In my last post, I made the argument that the time spent in your notebook or your Google Docs is valuable – that writing is professional learning. There are so many reasons for this, but possibly the most important is the writing community that you become a part of the moment you start considering sending your words to someone else.
But that sending your words to someone else. Yeesh. It’s no small thing.
As educators, we face our own fears every day. We welcome hundreds of young humans into our classrooms and pray that they’ll leave better readers, writers, and thinkers than when they left. We don’t flinch at the idea of public speaking anymore because these hundreds of students see us at our most vulnerable on a regular basis. But sharing our writing with someone else can be one of the most terrifying acts of all.
Part of that, I think, is because of this bogus notion that, in order to be a teacher and a writer, you must have it all figured out. It’s impostor syndrome at its worst, and I’m guilty of it way more often than I’d care to admit. But, really, that’s silly because there are no impostors when it comes to a writing practice. Writing can be a way of figuring things out. Or, as Rebekah O’Dell put it when she presented on this topic at TCTELA this January, “write what you don’t know.” Embracing the vulnerability of learning through writing is one of the best things I’ve done as an educator. It’s made me more reflective and has opened me up to new learning in a way that more passive types of professional development never had.
What you’re writing about isn’t the only scary part of putting yourself out there, though. It’s perhaps equally daunting to think about the who and the how: How do I know who might want to read this in the first place? And how the heck do I get them to read it?
So, to help with that, today’s post is a round-up of resources to help teachers navigate the who and how of getting their ideas out into a community of writers. I think one of the biggest lessons that I’m learning around this is that there isn’t any one perfect route. There are many entry points into many different types of writing communities. Play around until you find what feels right for you, your topics, and who you want as a part of your community. There are, of course, almost unending options for publications out there, but these options are focused on shorter (non-book) publications and are within a community of writers who are also teachers. If you’ve got other ideas that aren’t included on this list, add them to the resource by commenting below or through social media.
Writing for a blog is probably one of the most flexible options. It’s a good choice for informal writing that reflects on the practice of teaching. Whether you want to share a lesson that went well or a reflection on something you’ve learned, blogs are a great place to do it. Start up your own or team up with some friends to take turns posting. There are a ton of platforms out there, but Word Press and Medium are two that seem to be the most widely-used and user-friendly for the teacher-writer scene.
And if starting up your own blog isn’t really your thing (yet?), try guest blogging for one that’s already established. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a shameless plug, here, for our own guest post opportunity: Hey, I Tried That!
If you’re looking for something a little more formal, consider submitting your writing to a journal for educators. Big organizations like NCTE and ILA have multiple journals under their umbrella, but it’s also worth checking out your local affiliate. For example, where I am in Michigan, our MCTE publishes a biannual Journal called the Language Arts Journal of Michigan, and the Michigan Reading association releases the Michigan Reading Journal quarterly.
If you’re kicking around the idea of a journal article, knowing how their submissions work can be half the battle. It might take a little journal shopping to find the one that has the right fit for what you want to say. When you go to the submissions page on their website, be on the lookout for specific information about what they’re looking for:
- Theme issues Several journals designate specific themes for each issue. They’ll have a description of what they’re looking for as well as the deadlines and targeted publication dates. If your piece is a good fit for the theme, it can sometimes feel less daunting to send your ideas in knowing that they already fit with what they’re thinking.
- Recurring columns If none of their upcoming themes seem like a good fit, check out which regularly recurring columns they run. Those often have a particular slant, and they can offer another opportunity into their community.
- Rolling submissions Instead of aiming for a particular theme, some journals offer rolling submissions, which means that you can send your article of any topic in for review at any time. This can be a good fit if you have an article that has a wide appeal no matter the time of year.
If you’re interested in something a little less teacher-y, there are opportunities to share your creativity, too.
- Poetry in journals Listen, we’re English teachers. So, when we read journals for English teachers, it’s not crazy to find some poetry, too. Think a-la how poetry is interspersed into the pages of The New Yorker or The Atlantic. In addition to local affiliate journals that do this, the English Journal regularly accepts poetry submissions.
- Porcupine Literary is a new online literary magazine. They describe themselves as “approaching the literary through the spiky lens of teachers and teaching,” so you’ll find beautiful writing that is teaching adjacent, but that is far more creative than any edu-blog or journal. Their first issue dropped in February, and off, it is even more of a treasure than I anticipated it would be. They publish poetry, short fiction, creative nonfiction, comics, photos, and more, and they are currently accepting submissions!
Maybe hitting “submit” isn’t quite where you’re at yet. There’s still a lot of value in writing for a less formal community. Heck, sometimes even more value. You may forego having your piece nicely laid out by an editor, but engaging in the process of sharing your writing with a real audience is still super beneficial no matter how your words get out there.
- Writing buddy meetups Make a commitment with a friend or two – or ten – to meet regularly to share something you’re working on. You may read it aloud, share digitally, or bring paper copies to share and discuss with each other. You could try it on the same topic, try to tackle parts of a shared piece of writing, or take an open approach where anything goes. What you’re writing about honestly doesn’t matter as much as getting comfortable with writing for other people.
- Dedicated meeting time for writing If you regularly meet with colleagues or friends, try making some space to write, discuss, and learn together.
- Social media Check out opportunities to share bits and pieces of your writing. Sometimes it’s as simple as sending a screenshot or a photo of a notebook page out onto a news feed, and you can really tap into the power of a community of writers if you do this within a group that’s established. #TeachWrite has a vibrant community of teachers who write and learn together and discuss all aspects of the practice; check out their hasthtag and Twitter chats. And be on the lookout for fun challenges. For the past two summers, we’ve done a Moving Writers 100 Days of Summer Writing Challenge, and there are lots more out there. Playing along with these kinds of activities can give you the push you need from friends, and it can also make space for sharing your work informally.
I used to see publishing as something reserved for the elite, but the more I try out different audiences and genres and types of publications, the more I’ve started to realize that it’s more about conversation and community. This has been invaluable learning for my professional reflective practice, and it’s taught me to take a far more analytical, rhetorical approach to my writing practice as well.
I don’t know if I’ll ever completely squash my own impostor syndrome when it comes to writing, but I know that there’s nothing that’s been more powerful in at least helping me to tamp it down a bit than regularly writing for someone other than myself.
What about you? What audiences have helped you to engage in a teacher-writer community? Share your ideas in the comments below, on our facebook page, or on Twitter @megankortlandt
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