As a teacher of English Language Arts, I do my best to write alongside my students. If I ask them to brainstorm, I “write live” and project it for them to see my thinking in action. I haven’t always taught this way because it took time for me to find the courage to show my process. Many of my students struggle with creative writing because they believe it is something one is born having and not something one can develop over time through practice. It’s the constant tension between writing and “righting”–as in “Is this right? Am I right? Did I do this right?” I save and share my brainstorming in a folder on Google Drive so that by the end of the day, there are four different takes on any given exercise.
Still, there’s only so much courage in a bubble. My students write and share with me and their peers, but for me, who can be my peer to give me feedback? There’s not as much to risk if I don’t practice what I ask my students to do: to write broadly and brazenly; to work on an idea through iteration and revision; to share their work and put it into the world for others to comment, correct, and question.
So when I saw Chris Lehman was hosting an online workshop for #TeacherPoets, I was filled with a mixture of enthusiasm and apprehension. What a great way to renew my writing spirit and push my boundaries with real peer feedback!
It’s not enough to read and write as preparation for my classes. If I want to be an effective teacher, I have to be an authentic practitioner of my art.
Consider joining the Teacher Poets community on Google+ or form a writing community of your own around a kitchen table. Practice your practice and grow your voice.
Oh, and here’s my practice–to be added to the Poetry section of the blog:
(for my grandparents, the greatest love story I know)
she was receding
the ocean’s depth of her memory
evaporating like steam
hid her crossword puzzles
lost her crochet hooks
stripped her photo albums
ravaged her appetite
when she left a roast smoking in the oven
he cut off the gas for good
took her to the Ponderosa buffet
she clung to his arm
as unsteady as his shuffling gait
he led her gently to a booth
then made his way to the
breathing hard from the effort
legs numb from neuropathy
he leaned against the soup stand
dipped a ladle into the brine
fished for carrots until he had filled a plate
with soft orange slices
tender enough for her to eat
with ill-fitting false teeth
sighing, he sat and reached across the table
her frightened, clouded eyes seemed to clear
and for a moment
this pair, alone in the restaurant
in dirty clothes and unwashed hair
held the universe
in their hands