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.
You captured the frustration as well as the importance with grace and elegance! Wow!
It’s a big mixture of both!
There is no greater gift than to see ourselves as writers. You’ve made it a mission to take the long, often bumpy, road…building a classroom community where children are safe taking risks. They believe. They write. They care. Their hearts know…we have stories to share, poems to create, memories to capture, lists to make, letters to send, feelings to ponder, questions to wonder…
Thank you Lisa – the risk taking is so important to me – creating an environment where that can happen.
Your slice speaks to me. Even though I have third graders i have several who started out just like your students. Feeling and seeing the shift in attitudes and abilities brings joy. I don’t think that people out of school realize how complex creating a community of writers is. It’s never only about straight forward sequence of writing lessons. I am glad that your young writers have shown so much growth.
Yes, so very complicated! We have long ways to go but we are moving.
Carrie, what patience and faith you’ve shown your students! I really understood this piece so much. I love how surrounding your students with words helped them find their own.
It’s what we know most right? Readers can be writers! But with little ones, we have to offer the words up in so many different ways.
That is something to celebrate! I love the key ideas: trust, stamina and believing you have a story to tell. I will share these 3 ideas with teachers – simple, focus and essential. Thank you!
Thank you Clare. I am honoured that you found something here to share.
“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.”
If we could just carry this in our hearts and minds for the first two months of the year. We have to give them stories to think about. Love this post.
When we work with children we really understand that reading/writing connection!
Love the transition your students have gone through as the year progressed. We need to remember times like these at the beginning of the year when things seem and feel hopeless. I love the concept of a ‘frustration tornado.’ Great slice, Carrie!
Oh that tornado has been devastating many a time!
Your writing here reminds me of Colleen Cruz’s. You are so spot on in saying that trust, stamina, and students’ learning that they have stories inside to share need to be nurtured in our students before the will love writing and cherish time to write.
Well! That is a wonderful compliment! Thank you.
Following the path to a writer can be a tough one, but with your gentle hand guiding them, your students have found themselves through their own words. That is a marvelous thing!
A marvelous thing indeed – with room to grow!
Writing is hard work, but watching your students grow is so rewarding! It sounds like you’ve created something special!
We’re on route at least!
“We didn’t know we had stories inside us.” Yes! Writing has been a challenge for us too this year. I’m so proud of your writing community for finding their stories and going on the journey! Thanks for sharing this insight.
It is certainly a bumpy road on this journey! But we are traveling it!
I’m not surprised the way you ended Carrie, because I’ve heard about your class this year, but want to celebrate your “stamina” too, to keep on, knowing that community and writing will come. Love “Perfectionism is not our go to place.” No matter where, it’s a good quote to keep.
Thank you so much Linda.
It is amazing what can be accomplished through trust and community…and a teacher who works tirelessly to create the writing space. Congratulations on the strides you have made with this group that sounds very challenging.
Many thanks. I believe community is everything.
Carrie, your posts are my window to what matters most in life. Since I retired from a many-decades career in classrooms, I ache for the year-long experience of sharing literacy lives with kids. Your posts, especially this one, remind me that others are out there, doing the deep-hearted, deep-thinking, life-changing work that kids need. Thank you for that, and for your posts, always humbly and touchingly shared.
Sandy this comment means so so much to me! Thank you, thank you. I think I have read it ten times now.
Deeply welcome, Carrie, with gratitude that my appreciation touched you. There are so many forces in the world working against teachers and learners and the hard work we/they do. Sharing your community journey is a gift to so many others, especially since you’re a gifted writer.
The sharing offers a lot of learning opportunities for me. Trying to move past the fear of putting words out there.
There are so many things about this post to love. Things that are needed for all writers: skills, trust, stamina. What you have created in your classroom is so lovely: a structure to support young writers so they can overcome their frustrations and get to their story!
And it doesn’t happen every time but now it is sometimes and I celebrate that!
Love this. So beautiful. ❤
Thank you Beth.
I love this post and seeing the journey you and your students have made this year. Truly a celebration!
It is a journey!
I feel this with my sixth graders, too – trust and stamina take time to build, but all of a sudden, it’s there and worthy of celebration.
We are so lucky aren’t we?To witness this?
and now the writing magic begins because you created a safe haven
Yes, day by day it grows.
Carrie I’m looking forward to sharing your blog with our cohort of writer’s workshop teachers!
Really? Wow! Thank you.
I. Love. This. Your classroom sounds like a lovely place for your students. You show in this the frustration and struggle, but even more so the patience and understanding of creating the writing community for your students. LOVE!
Yes, you are wise to notice that it is just as much about the struggle!
I love this line…”We didn’t know we had stories inside us.” The growth of your writers is inspirational!
I am very excited to celebrate it!
I will be printing this out and sharing it with the teachers I’ve been working with this year to try to implement writing workshop. What a beautiful piece!
Wow, thank you Elsie. Very, very honoured that you will be sharing this.
Terrific and inspiring post! One of my favorite parts…”Perfectionism is not our go to place. Writing flow is. We want to tell a story. Our story.”
Thank you Loralee!
Trust is happening there too. Your community is learning to trust and tell. Beautiful.
I love that Crystal – trust and tell!