I came into teaching thinking writing was something you were taught to do. It was not something that could simply be experienced. It was through a collaborative inquiry group, The Community of Teachers Learning (COTL) that I not only began writing, but I began to experience what it felt like to be a writer. No one was telling me what to do, I was drawn to write and discover. Every meeting had a dedicated time for quiet writing with invitations that lured you to write. For me, it was awkward at first, but slowly, I began to feel the allure of the experience. With each monthly meeting, and new invitations, I began to feel like a writer. Being invited to write felt different than being taught to write, so I wrote. So began my belief in teacher as writer.
That experience meandered its’ way into my both my second and third grade classrooms. Every day, children were given invitations to write and sketch. I noticed, all those years ago, that children, like me at the COTL meetings, rarely had difficulty getting to work. There was something about an invitation that was less intimidating than being taught to write. I felt it and I saw it in the children.
Fast forward twenty something years, and in 2017, Teachers Who Write, a summer writing group was born. It was Ralph Fletcher’s, Joy Write, that inspired the original question “What happens when a group of teachers comes together to write and research?” This group has met for three years. Each year, the summer “work” we do as teacher-writers has found its’ way to children in our schools.
This summer, thanks to The Covid. We found ourselves in a virtual world of Teachers who Write. What happened this summer was unexpected yet incredibly welcome – my colleagues’ children began to write with us. The invitations we offered at each meeting welcomed writers of all ages. The choice embedded in the invitations was inspiring exploration, play and discovery. Each meeting, of course, would end with a share. There, in our virtual world, feedback went from 50 year olds to 5 year olds, from one generation to another. I was in awe after every meeting.
And then we found ourselves in school – in a hybrid model, and just this week, I was struck with awe again.
I learned that our fifth grade team, Peter, Denia, Emily, and Val had taken it upon themselves to bring an experience, similar to our summer “work”, to their 5th grade classes.
Together, over time, my colleagues and I have given space and time to grow confidence and creativity for ourselves and the children we teach. What a gift it is to explore alongside them and to see them explore with their children. Reflecting on where we started leaves me wondering where we will go…
*I can’t thank Jess Carey, Peter vonEuler, Jess Marino, Denia D’Alessandro, Erika Griffin, Elena Wetmore for their shared belief in growing writers, starting with themselves. And one more special thank you to Jennifer Laffin for her inspiring WOTD #DWHabit (Twitter).