In the fall, my classroom was not filled with writers. Offer up writing materials and time and the only thing guaranteed would be snapped in two pencils. Ripped up papers. Whining. Slumps. Quitting. Not even starting. Helpless, hopeless frustration.
There were lots of reasons. Lack of skills was a big one. Letter formation was hard. Most children couldn’t spell much more than their own names and maybe a few high frequency words. Many asked me how to spell every word they wanted to write. Every single one. In a class of 21 children, you can imagine how this quickly swirled into a frustration tornado that ripped through our room in a matter of minutes.
It was also about trust. Trust we didn’t yet have. Writing is about being brave. And vulnerable. And hardly ever perfect. It’s about mistake after mistake after mistake until something comes out that sounds right. Who wants to do that in front of other people? Other people feeling just as unsure as you are. Who are likely to bite before being bitten. Until we had community, no real writing could happen.
We also lacked stamina. Again for many reasons. The minimal skills meant maximum exhaustion. A title and a date on the page? A small miracle. On lucky days, also a picture. A sentence? That was pushing it. We came to school tired. We stayed tired for a lot of the day. We would rather be eating, playing, sleeping than working. Writing was just too much to ask.
And . . . we didn’t know we had stories inside of us. We needed to be read to. We needed a room full of books. We needed to sit and read together. Recite poetry in a group. Sing songs. Words needed to be all around us. So that they could live inside of us. So that we could use them to share who we are.
Now, writing happens in my room. We have the confidence to make choices from a variety of ideas. We can share and support. We make attempts at words, asking “Is this how you spell. . . ?” When I answer, “almost” – we go with it. Perfectionism is not our go to place. Writing flow is. We want to tell a story. Our story.
Every child, every day? No. But many on most days? Yes. And the more it happens, the more it spreads.
Writing happens here.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.
This is also a celebration post.
Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!
Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.