Start Writing Now

In a stack of papers called Writing.

  • Apr
  • 15
  • 2006

I leave for Japan tomorrow. I’ll be in Kyoto for a few days, Izumo for a few more, spend the night in Osaka, then head for home. It should be fun, but it means that I’ll be away from my girlfriend, my cat, and my blog.

As I get ready to spend my Spring Break, not relaxing and reading, but running through train stations and lugging around baggage, you need to start writing now.

Especially if you are a new teacher, but no matter where you are in your career as a teacher, you should be writing your trials and successes down for posterity. In fact, if you are a teacher, you should be a writer of some kind, even if only of the memoirs of your classroom adventures.

If you’re an English teacher, writing on a regular basis keeps you in touch with the frustrations your students experience, giving you ideas on how to help ease those pains. For instance, I read every one of these entries out loud several times before I publish them. That’s my final check on focus and continuity because I notice things differently when I read out loud than I do reading silently. I didn’t realize that until just about 3 months ago. Now I can pass that tip on to my students.

If you’re not an English teacher, writing every day reminds you of the necessity to learn how to communicate your thoughts effectively and gives you insight on how to go about that task. If you’re not an English teacher, chances are that’s a pretty easy thing to forget. Writing regularly also keeps you sharp in identifying mistakes in student writing. Literacy is a school wide effort, after all. Every little bit you can do to help students correctly get their ideas down on paper or across in words is a step toward a more literate graduating class.

A teacher who is not reflective is a teacher who stays locked in an old paradigm. And as the world changes, that makes you more and more out of touch with the students you serve.

Start doing exactly what I’m doing. No, no, that won’t do. Do it better than I’m doing it. Think about your teaching. Reflect on what you’ve done in class over the last 2 or 3 weeks. Figure out how you can do it differently. Imagine how you can build your class around student needs and state standards. Dream of ways that it would work in an ideal world. That ideal world exists not too far away from our world at times. Realizing the ideal is a big step toward attaining it.

But more than simply having these thoughts floating around in your head, write them down somewhere. They don’t have to be on a blog, open for the rest of the world to see, though they certainly can be. They don’t even have to be written down electronically, though that has been a big help to me as I organize my thoughts each day.

Keep a journal. Jot some ideas down on a napkin at dinner. Slap a few thoughts on the back of that stupid flier someone put under your windshield wipers the other day. Scribble a stray gem that pops up during an impromptu conversation after school on the inside of that manila folder holding all those tests from 6th period. Get your ideas down somewhere. You will forget otherwise.

At some point in time, let someone else look at your writings. Embarrassing, nerve wracking, and quite possibly frightening, it helps to get another perspective. That’s why I keep this blog and is quite possibly the biggest argument for doing so: comments allow anyone to give that perspective.

Build the habit now to start trying to fix the things that went wrong and realizing how you can improve. Open your day up for conversation with your friends, not in that commiserating way in which all teachers swap tales, but in a way that leads to better teaching. If you begin to do that now, the potential for your teaching 10 years from now is incredible.

Stop reading this. Pick up a pencil or turn on your computer. Start writing now.

However, I want to give you a homework assignment. Time Magazine’s current issue features an article called Dropout Nation. A quick glance and the article looks interesting. Thanks to my girlfriend, that magazine will accompany me on my 16-hour flight and I’m sure I’ll end up with a thing or two to write about it when I get back home. Buy the magazine, read the article, and report back here in about a week.

Faithful reader, thank you. This is the day I met a big goal of mine. Without anyone looking at my words, I don’t know that I would have had the motivation. If I keep writing interesting things, stick around and make a comment or two. See you in a week.

5 comments

1. Laurie says:

[4/15/2006 - 7:34 pm]

Are you talking to me? Cause I feel like you are and I thank you for that. Safe trip. Thanks for the 100. I honor your commitment.

2. Cassandra says:

[4/16/2006 - 6:09 am]

Funny- I’ve never enjoyed reflective writing until recently. Part of my student teaching requirement is to submit a weekly reflection. I find that I start it after one day and just keeping adding through the week. More surprisingly, I’m disappointed if my supervisor fails to respond with comments or thoughts.

My students are blogging on classblogmeister.com, but I fear they will find my blog if I start one about teaching. I do not feel that I could be truly reflective with that worry. Does anyone else have this problem? Do you just stick to paper and pen?

3. Debbie says:

[4/16/2006 - 7:14 pm]

Totally understand your concerns about the kids seeing your blog. I have the same concerns. Plus my department chair knows where my blog is and my other department chair (see comment #1 above) could.

Instead, I jot down comments in the margins of the lesson plans I use or in my lesson planner calendar with what worked and what didn’t. I’m not organized enough to bring all that information together when I’m unit planning yet, since my units are basically brand new right now, but they’ll come in handy over the summer when I really lesson plan.

4. Laurie says:

[4/17/2006 - 3:41 pm]

Okay….now I want to know where your blog is…come one. Dish. Todd has shamed, no inspired me to start my own…so I will tell if you will.

5. Paul Phuoc~ says:

[4/24/2006 - 12:48 am]

The truth is…there are other SC students other than myself that read Seal man’s blog regularly. I’ve actually discussed this issue of an open blog with other fellow readers (who found him on Google), and we’ve come to the conclusion that even if Seal has million readers, they’d rather not expose themselves with uneducated comments, for his entries are too profound…and utterly boring. =] Oh…it’s a Monday already–I get to dropkick him in about 5 hours.