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But, I have learned a lot about writing this summer, as I reflect on the work. I have gotten to know about communities that exist to mentor, encourage, and inspire writers. If any of you are trying to write a chapter book, firstfivepagesworkshop.blogspot.com is an incredible resource. I can not say enough about how much the community there has taught me.
Here are a couple of big takeaways for classrooms. Writers crave responses. At the firstfivepages website, we put our writing up publicly for critiques and I read, re-read, read out loud, and even printed out many of the comments. On the days when we put up our revised versions, I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times I checked to see if my piece had any new comments. When we are really into writing, it’s brave and scary to put it out there, and that’s what we ask kids to do in workshop oriented classrooms. As a teacher, as a coach, as a human, I pledge to remember to respond when people, young or old, share their work with me.
Another takeaway for classrooms is that letting go of ideas or parts of written work is hard. I found myself going through a predictable process when my writing community made suggestions that involved significant revisions (and admittedly, my writing community was probably much more honest and critical than I would think most teachers would be to students). First, I have to say, I felt defensive. I wanted to explain why I made the decisions that I made and have my readers/critiquers just understand. Then, I would try to dig into what they were saying. This is when I was really grateful for written comments because I could repeatedly return to them. Gradually, I would rehearse in my head how to incorporate suggestions and feedback before I could sit down and really do meaningful revision.
I’m not saying that students follow this same process when teachers give them stuff to work on, but this summer, I have developed a second favorite word. (My first favorite word is yet, since it opens up a world of possibility.) Maybe has a whole new place of power as a word for me this summer. When critiquers used the word maybe, I felt empowered, almost like their idea was my idea. (It wasn’t. Many times, the ideas were other people’s...) I am planning to use maybe in my practice much, much more. I am even working on a post about the power of maybe.
I’m off to celebrate my last day at the beach--this week I return to the land of working with meetings on Thursday and work-related tasks on Friday.