Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Finding Your Voice

Since school started, I have been grappling with how to approach writing; I know that the formulated writing that I taught in the past is a thing of the past. I know that it is important for students to get their thoughts out and find their voices.

So, today, I walked in and told them just that. I told them that I want them to not worry about grammar, especially if they are English as a second language students. I wanted them to focus on getting their thoughts out. I told them about me setting my timer every single night for thirty minutes, and I have been writing during those thirty minutes. I told them that I know it’s hard, and I know it can make a person feel extremely vulnerable, but I encouraged them to talk to each other, think about what’s on their minds and in the world, and write.

They started writing, and one stated “I have so much on mind all of the time, but now I can’t get anything out.” Another student stated “This is hard.” However, they continued to write. Through google classroom, I could see what each individual student was writing, and I observed some making list, a few were writing stories, and one was even writing about how school is the worse place for a child to be; there is never any time to have fun and laugh.

Their anxiety was running high worrying about when was the paper due. I had to reassure them that they did not have to worry about getting finished; they can work on this piece until they felt that they were finished. I never thought about how I had been pressuring students about the final project instead of putting more emphasis on the process.

I remember giving students two or three class periods to write an essay, and I would give them this outline, and tell them to write. I would hate reading paper after paper that read just like the paper that came before it. I would think “Where are the students voices?” I never thought about the fact that it was the way that I was approaching the writing.

Today, I nervously gave them my blog address and asked them to read my blog about writing. I asked them could they hear my voice, and they all agreed that they could. We talked about what I did to make my voice heard. I told them how I write from the heart, and I try and write with authority by not using “I think” or “I believe.” I told them how I give my thoughts, but I try and validate my thoughts through giving real life examples. They seem to get it, and they were writing.

Writing is hard, and I don’t want to ever forget. When I see my students struggling; I want to be able to empathize with them, and that is why I have been setting that timer and writing even when I do not feel like it.

Like right now, I have about eleven minutes to go, and I want to stop. I want to go the bathroom, and check my email, and look at Facebook, and do a whole bunch of other stuff to distract from the writing, and I noticed that is what my students were doing. Before the thirty minutes were up, I started hearing chatter, and folks started looking at their phones, and folks started to ask to go to the bathroom. I had to tell them to do what I have to do and that is sit with the discomfort and write, even if what they are writing is not making any sense at all. Just Write.

Eight minutes to go, and I want to quit, but I can’t. I feel like I have stated all that I want to say, but there is always more.... Oh yea, I can take these last seven minutes to look over what I have already written. Yes, that’s what I can do.

Y’all, you see my tactics to avoid the discomfort of writing, so I know exactly how my students feel.

I have changed my approach to writing with my students, and I am including myself in the process.

I’ll come back to this to let you know how it goes.

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