Late yesterday, I finished a lengthy blog piece on milkweed and awaiting the arrival of spring. A ritual I participate in each spring was described and anticipated. It was 9 p.m. by the time I finished and published it. Hence, it did not get much readership.
But, it got me thinking about writing in general and how not every piece of writing is a great work.. I write daily. It would stand to reason that only a few of my pieces are what I would consider a great read. But, if you only cursorily attend to my blog, you might come away thinking it is only mediocre. Some pieces are too verbose. In some posts, I am comma happy. Some might not flow as well as I intended. Some, God forbid, have grammatical errors or lack matching verb tense. Still, I write.
However, if you dig a little deeper you will find a creative soul with a passion for writing. Some posts are written when filled with outrage, and convey the emotion clearly. Some posts are polished because I spent an inordinate amount of time on them – certainly not time I have every day. As a regular reader, you will see themes emerge from my writing, even if I let them go unstated.
All this reminds me of what our expectations should be when we write with children. Very few will produce a great piece right off the bat, even with great instruction. It is progress over time we should look for in our students’ writing. Consistent approaches from grade level to grade level and adequate feedback – which I deem as written comments in some form (not just a number attached to the rubric) are necessary for growth as writers. We need to keep in mind that we are asking our students to write on demand. Few of them like it, and even when they do, it sometimes wanes over the years, especially if they lack exposure to inspiring content or teaching methods. Fortunately, I think the use of mentor texts, today, can lead to significant improvement in motivation.
It saddens me that one of my sons wrote a nine chapter book in first grade on the planets, outside of class. He was so inspired to write by his teacher, and the amount of reading we did at home, that he wrote and illustrated a book! But, aside from a few poems he had published, which I think were quite good, (I know I am biased) his ability, motivation, and inspiration for the written word has done nothing but slowly recede over the years. He has the capacity, just not the desire. He’ll graduate from high school next year, and plans to pursue a degree in art. I suppose, if looking at it optimistically, his creativity shines in another medium, just not the writing.
So, I ask you, as you work with students to keep in mind that not every piece they produce will be stellar. But, if you continue to nurture their ability from where-ever that happens to be, there should be improvement. I am also trying to take my own words to heart, “not every piece will be a great work” and that is okay.
It is Slice of Life Tuesday! Although I am not participating in the Slice of Life Challenge this year, I thank the TwoWritingTeachers blog for creating and hosting this community of writers each year!