Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Nothing Less Than Daily #SOL17
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Slice of Life: Nothing Less Than Daily #SOL17

Recently, I surprised myself by taking a different stand.  I was working with a leadership team as they set goals and designed an action plan for literacy next year.  The district is planning to shift to a workshop model for reading and writing.  Change is always stressful – no one finds it easy.  In the past, when districts determined goals I stayed quiet when they decided to set a goal of having reading and writing workshop three times a week for the first year of implementation.

I stayed quiet because I wanted to be sensitive to the time commitment of learning something new.  I didn’t want teachers to feel overwhelmed.  I used to talk about real, but achievable goals.  Last week I changed my tune.  I couldn’t live with anything less than daily.  This change is not because I want to fit in more units of study or pace instruction more quickly.  It is not to raise test scores or lift the quality of reading and writing.  It is not to be rigorous or raise expectations.

I changed my tune because, for the first time, I considered the impact of the frequency on the readers and the writers.  They need to have workshop daily in order to engage purposefully and meaningfully.  They need to plan to read and write every day so it becomes a habit.  When you read and write every day, you live the life of reader and a writer.  It becomes who you are – your essence.

I attribute this shift to the Slice of Life March Challenge.  I participated in this challenge for the past two years.  It changed my thinking on writing and reading.  I cannot articulate the impact of daily writing on my stance as a writer.  When you know you are going to write every day, you live differently.  I was amazed both years how easy it was to write for thirty-one days.  For me, the hardest transition is shifting back to writing weekly.  In March, I have so many topics to choose from – you get in a groove and the writing flows.

I imagine it is the same for our students.  If they don’t write daily, they will lose momentum.  They won’t live a writerly life – planning to write as they go about their daily lives.  It doesn’t matter if our lessons are perfect, our students need to write daily.  They need to write with voice, purpose and choice.  Even if it is messy – it is better to let them write.  Change is hard, but we need to remember our students are actually making the biggest change. We need to provide them with the optimal conditions to make this change.  The only way to be a reader and a writer is to read and write every day.

Clare

15 Comments
  • Avatar
    Kathleen Sokolowksi
    Posted at 09:54h, 02 May Reply

    Yes! It’s about the essence of who we are- readers and writers. I love your perspective on this and the rationale. It’s not about the perfect lessons and the test scores, but doing the real work of readers and writers each day. Did you explain your thinking when you shared that with the school?

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:10h, 03 May Reply

      I did not explain my thinking — it some reflection on my part to figure out why I changed my thinking. In the past I was okay with starting slow and growing over the years. I did not see it as problematic. I will share it when I see them again – thanks for getting me to think more about that!!

      Clare

  • Avatar
    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 10:01h, 02 May Reply

    Amen! Amen! Amen! When I read the words “three times a week,” my eyebrows raised. I was relieved to see that you spoke up in favor of daily writing. As writers, we know this is so, so important and soon these teachers will learn the same. (Do you think you can get the teachers to write daily too?)

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:13h, 03 May Reply

      In the past, I didn’t see it as a problem to slowly roll in a new curriculum. Especially in elementary school when many teachers are learning new programs or structures for multiple content areas at the same time. It made sense. Thinking about the kids – not the teachers (who I typically think about in my coaching role) is what shifted it for me. We find teachers love to write when we implement writer’s workshop– that is typically not a problem!
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Jessica
    Posted at 10:02h, 02 May Reply

    This is everything! You clearly see the value and are willing to make time for what matters. Good luck!

  • Avatar
    Katie Gordon
    Posted at 11:05h, 02 May Reply

    And how is it going? With the leadership? The teachers? The kids? Is your practice running more smoothly with the shift?

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:14h, 03 May Reply

      We are just setting goals at this point… so time will tell!
      Clare

  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 11:13h, 02 May Reply

    I could not agree more! Daily reading and writing is a must. If we don’t make it a priority in the classroom, what are we saying to our students–that reading and writing is a sometime thing? that reading and writing are important only on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday? Yes, change is hard, bur stagnation is the parent of banality. Great post, Clare.

  • Avatar
    Erika Victor
    Posted at 11:20h, 02 May Reply

    Good call! Somehow it has come to be that many people think, with writing workshop especially it seems, that three times a week is all you can ask for. It is funny the changes you want when you live the life yourself. I hope it goes well!

  • Avatar
    lynne dorfman
    Posted at 12:14h, 02 May Reply

    Oh, this is so true! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Clare. You said it perfectly – it’s about the immersion, living a readerly and writerly life – so that is what we become, who we are, long after we leave the school building. We exist as readers and writers outside of the school day!

    I remember when I attended the PA Summer Writing Institute. It was five weeks and every day. Writing became easier and easier as I settled into a routine. The expectation of a set-aside, sacred time to read and write is magical. I try to build in this time for myself on a daily basis. Sometimes, I fall short, squeezing too many things into a day. But that’s my goal – to read and write daily (and not to read in bed where I often fall asleep after reading the same page five times!).

  • Avatar
    Stacey
    Posted at 15:24h, 02 May Reply

    I’m fascinated by what you said about shifting back to writing weekly, as opposed to daily, after the March Challenge, Clare. I think it is a huge shift and feels — almost — unnatural after being highly engaged day after day.

    I’m glad you changed your tune. I remember the first time I refused to accept some consulting work (which would’ve proven to be lucrative) since the school refused to commit to teaching writing more than three days a week. I felt they’d be wasting money on me and wouldn’t see results if the kids were only writing three days a week. Sometimes we have to take a stand — especially when we know our pov will be best for children.

    • Avatar
      Clare and Tammy
      Posted at 00:18h, 03 May Reply

      Stacey – I really felt the struggle this year after March. I almost didn’t write this March due to other commitments and now I am having more trouble with once a week. It really has me thinking! The district’s long term goal was (and always is in our work) daily. We have in the past started with 3 days and gradually increased over the year with daily in year two. It is a lot for teachers, but I think the kids need it daily. These teachers are great and I have no doubt they will pull it off beautifully.

      Clare

  • Avatar
    Lisa C
    Posted at 20:33h, 02 May Reply

    I love this! My own writing life has impacted my teaching so much. I used to be more inclined to keep my opinions about daily writing to myself too, but have found over time that I believe in it so strongly that I can’t just nod and let people think 3 days a week, or (gasp) skipping a week here and there is okay. I think that it might be hard, but as Stacey says the daily writing is what will really bring about results. Then everyone will be a convert. 🙂

  • Avatar
    Rose
    Posted at 00:50h, 03 May Reply

    Your words are so true, Clare. And your experience with daily writing also proves how important it is for teachers to write also. Then they will feel the impact!

  • Avatar
    Susan Kennedy
    Posted at 01:33h, 03 May Reply

    Clare, you encouraged me to write every day in March and it made all the difference. As I transitioned away from writing every day, the writing is slipping away from me. I’m not finding the time to write as much, even once a week. Keep strong on what you know is right. It will be the right move for the teachers and students.

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