Monday, July 16, 2007

I am a writer!!

I am spending the week at an advanced Cognitive Coaching training. We are at a beautiful central New York resort town, which is very conducive to reflective learning. Today was day one and already my head is brimming with new ideas.

One piece has been incredibly relevant to writing : the idea of nested levels of learning from Robert Dilts discussed in the beginning of the session. Below is one page of my notes on this. As we discussed the hierarchy in this model - we thought about where most of our classrooms lie.

We know that when we begin a new initiative or attempt to create change in our classroom, we begin at the most basic level - environment. At this level - change is easy to implement and it is fast. I think about folks moving to a writing workshop. Teachers change the structure of their classrooms or perhaps parcel out their time with kids a bit differently. Voila! Writing workshop.

The next level has to do with behaviors and skills - the what of teaching. With a writing workshop - we conference with students, we provide mini-lessons, we hone our coaching skills. And sometimes - this is where it ends. Some of our students stand up and say "I am a writer!!" - others, most others, don't.

If we are lucky - our classrooms reflect the capabilities phase. We provide structure and frameworks for our students, big ideas about writing for students to hold on to. We begin to develop their capabilities as writer - to make choices about the words they use, the way they organize their thoughts and ideas. They make choices in writing and monitor the impact those choices have on a reader.

But these things can only happen if we approach the values/beliefs stage. If we truly believe that we want our students to be writers, rather than just write (which is the identity phase). And here is where I struggled a bit.

I am wondering if we can ask our students to be writers if we are not writers ourselves. I try to structure my workshops on writing to involve a great deal of writing - and this is where my workshop evaluations fall into the danger zone. Many don't like to be asked to write - just give me the strategies and I'll implement them - thank you! But it is never as easy as that - we need to experience what we are learning so that we can figure out how to make it our own - so that we can adapt it to our learners. And this is very, very important in writing!!

So what is it that makes people reluctant to write? Why don't we write more? We can blame new technologies but I think about this blog. It is a new technology that allows me to write - to hone my writing skills - to be a writer. Does it take time? Yes - but because it is fundamental to who I am, I make that time.

Perhaps if we tapped into what makes us reluctant to write - we might be able to tap into what will encourage students to write. And together - we can all become writers.

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