I recently began my planning for the year by creating the document below. I wanted to organize my thinking so I began putting stuff in tables trying to capture both the focus and routine of my desired culture. I am an “ideas” guy, and if I don’t get them down in some kind of format, my ideas sometimes don’t become my realities. What’s more, if I don’t have a schedule and routine, my ADD becomes problematic as newer and shinier ideas pop into my head, and I get lost, bouncing here and there. And while I like the responsive flexibility that this problem presents, it can make for a bumpy ride for my kids as I am prone to wandering around a bit. So, in an effort to do better this year, I am trying to contain my energy and ideas into a focus-and-routine approach. It is my current “do.”
And as we do, we reflect, and as we reflect, we seek to do even better. This morning, I made some minor changes. I will share why in the “reflect” below.
“…we need our writers to have a positive writing identity to truly reach their greatest potential as writers.”
“I have come to believe that yes, developing nurturing writing environments is critical, but that we must start with the writer, each writer, and build the collective ‘we’ from there.”
–Patty McGee, Feedback That Moves Writers Forward
And then, we read a book, and our world changes. Two days ago, I received and began reading Patty McGee’s book Feedback That Moves Writers Forward. It was already on my to-read radar from the TG2Reads post and promotion, but then I learned I would be co-moderating this week’s #TG2Chat with her, so I rushed it to the front of the line. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon, the above quotes caught my attention, and I began thinking about environment. I want my kids to consider themselves as writers; I always have, but I just haven’t always done a great job of creating the necessary context and conditions for this to occur. I have changed names in the past: writer’s notebook instead of writing notebook. I have also used “writer’s workshop,” tracing all the way back to Atwell and her work that I learned about in college. But my efforts have always really been experimental dabbles, not resulting in my desired outcome: that kids view themselves as writers.
So this year I set out to make writing an even greater priority, seeking to give my kids ample opportunities to work through various modes so they can develop the craft of writing. I even carved out two days per week, planning to schedule conferences each week, so I could consistently meet with my kids and conference with them about their writing. The list goes on. I am a huge believer in the necessity and power of feedback, a belief that was further cemented from my Project 180 experience last year when I took grades completely off the table and came to rely on all that was left, all that mattered: feedback. In short, we were going to be writers this year. But I found a flaw in my plan. After reading from Patty’s book, I started wondering about my plan when I was watching Star Trek Voyager last night, and I wondered what I had written for the “focus” in my planning document. Had I written, writing or writer’s workshop? Surely, I had written the latter. I would check in the morning. I checked. I was wrong. I had written “writing.” And I am not sure why. I know better. So, I reflected. And I did better.
As you can see in the document above, I struck through the former titles of writing and reading workshop, etc. I was simply going to change to “writer’s” and “reader’s” but I got stuck on workshop. What did I mean by workshop? Why workshop? What was I really trying to communicate through my title? And, as I reflected, I discovered that what I wanted most was for my kids to believe they are writers. A firm believer and practitioner in mantras, I changed the titles to what fits my purpose and my culture best. Mondays and Tuesdays are no longer “Writing Workshop” days. They are “We Are Writers” days. I believe in the power of mantras on mindset. I believe that if we hear, we say it, we come to believe it. The “writer” is there the “work” is implicit, but I also want the “belief” to be there. So I, we, will refer to our to ourselves and our work in this manner. We will become what we see, hear, and believe. We will become writers.
Do. Reflect. Do better.