Why Writing?

            How can our words enhance messages about teaching and learning?  

           How can our words enhance messages about teaching and learning?  

Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought that there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods or sorcerers. All my life I’ve felt that there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves.
— Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird

Here is a misconception about writing: most people think they are not "good" writers.  It must be a myth, though, because everyone’s writing is different, so how could any one person be incorrect?  This is a conversation I have had with friends who say that they “can’t sing” or “can’t dance”.  Perhaps none of us have Shakespeare’s way with words or Aretha Franklin’s powerful voice.  Not being “good” at something in the traditional sense should not be a barrier to trying something on for size.  

That is what the Teachers as Writers course is all about: Early Childhood Educators need to write to communicate children’s thinking and learning to parents and other stakeholders, and if we really want people to read those words, it must be engaging.

When I was a kid, I wanted to write chapter books like Ann M. Martin or Beverly Cleary. Inspired by Dear Mr. Henshaw, I wrote books to Beverly Clearly, hoping to strike up a writing relationship with her.  I thought that I let go of writing somewhere between high school and college, when writing felt like a chore.  I associated “writers” with fiction.  Not long ago, I finally began to use “writer” to describe part of my work because I put thoughts into a computer and people read them.  That makes me a writer, I think.  The more I reflected on the role that writing plays in my work as an Early Childhood Educator, the more value I placed on writing.  I do some reflective writing most everyday after classroom teaching: sometimes a sentence, sometimes pages.  My personal philosophy of education is made up of bits and bobs of all kinds of ideas that people have had, and telling stories of children’s learning to stakeholders has always been important to me.  Many educational philosophies embrace the idea of teachers telling learning stories in portfolios and in documentation.  If we are to engage our audience of parents, colleagues, administrators, and the greater community in stories of learning, they should be carefully crafted and engaging.  I believe that what we are trying to do, as teachers and writers, is write narrative non-fiction.  We need to engage our audience.  Our words can be complemented by media such as photos, videos, audio, and work samples.  We can also flip that communication to choose the right words that feature the other media, with the words, statements, and questions in a clarifying role.

It is important to note that thoughtful writing does not necessarily need to be a time consuming chore: it can be pleasurable.  As you think through writing, you also work through ideas and clarify and rework things in your own mind.  The more you write, the more you gain.

We want to write to make thinking and learning visible, to tell true stories of children's inquiries about the world.  The Teachers as Writers course is meant to be an inquiry into the writing self.  Every one of the people enrolled is an individual with a unique writing voice. Your voice can change in different contexts, from a text message to a blog post.  There is no one correct way to write a story of learning, no one way to clarify information.  Each student in the course will have a different experience, just like students in an early education program, taking the most applicable and salient information to heart.  Each person gets to choose how much to interact, how many of the resources to use, how much to write.  There is no reason why constructivist learning cannot happen in an online space.