teaching kids to write

there are plenty of things about my job that drive me insane because i have no control over them.

this post is more about a thing that is driving me insane because i know that, with time, i will have control over it – and i will love it.

no, it’s not a child’s behavior.

it’s writing. more specifically, teaching kids to write. the thing is, when i was a kid, i loved to write. i still do. it came naturally to me, much more so than more extroverted activities, like acting in a play, sharing an answer with the class, or (sometimes) talking to my peers. i could put pencil to paper and just scrawl my thoughts across a page, as easily as turning on a water spout. i wrote stories about fairies, about kids who didn’t fit in, about kids who didn’t fit in but then it turned out they were fairies and so they became instantly popular (in retrospect, my teachers should have noticed a theme of “i feel awkwardly out of place” in my writing). i wrote and i wrote and i wrote. poetry, fiction, journal entries about my life, historical fiction, whatever the genre, it was my jam.

so when i decided to go into teaching, writing was the one place where my heart sped up with anticipation. i knew from first-hand experience that writing could give a voice to the awkwardly silent children of the world. i was so excited to have my kids write in their journals every week, telling me things they told no one else. i was going to have them free-write ALL the time, and push them to become stronger writers. i was going to help every student see that writing was an open window when, for many kids, lots of the doors around them seem to be bolted shut.

you should, at this point, hear the screeching of tires as these brilliant plans came to a full halt. i have kids who love to write. don’t get me wrong. i have kids who write me heart-breakingly honest letters to leave in the blue basket labeled Letters to Ms. Krovetz. i have kids who like to just write lists of things. i have kids who write side-splittingly funny stories about bubble baths. i have kids who come up with creative non-fiction ideas, like my student who wrote about how to get healthy. but it’s my kids who get so frustrated by writing that are killing me. i have found that, for one student, setting a timer and challenging him to write as much as he can helps. for another, i found a website with a story prompter – it sparked ideas for this student. there is still one student who will stare at me blankly, clearly terrified that answering my question “what do you want to write about?” the wrong way will result in disaster.

part of my frustration is that i can’t just craft my own writing curriculum. that’s a given, i know. but it would be fun to whip up a fun and challenging curriculum that was all mine. i don’t know. i know that i’m reaching most of my kids. i know that they’re growing this year (and that that can be so hard to see in the moment). but i’m a perfectionist when it comes to my job. i beat myself up because of the handful of students who are not loving writing. i need to figure out what to do or say to light a fire in their minds, and i haven’t got it yet.

so. readers. did you love to write as a kid? did you not, and then you met a teacher who helped you learn to love it? what did they do? what should i do?

p.s. for a glimpse into the glamorous life of a teacher, i’m writing this while drinking green juice and wearing a charcoal face masque. and watching harry potter.

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