Do As I Do

I teach high school English and Reading Strategies. And I read, and I write, for a range of audiences and purposes. Besides enjoying these activities, I think it is good personal policy. All teachers should do what they ask students to do, at least some of the time.

Because I write, I understand that there  is no one “writing process,” but rather many writing processes. A writer must build a repertoire and choose from the strategies that work on a specific day for a specific purpose.  I use the software “Write or Die” for my Nanowrimo novel, but I would never use it to write haiku.  I try to offer my students options when I can as they move through their processes.

Because I write, I am uncomfortable with the term “Final Draft.” I still use it, because it is a convenient shorthand that means something to students, but in my creative writing class over the past three years, I used the term “Publication Draft.” Calling something a “publication draft” didn’t mean you were personally finished with a piece, if you were my student.  I simply meant that now was the deadline, so you’d better polish it up and turn it in. Because I know from writing that rarely does anything ever feel “final.” And in the world outside my classroom, with publishing on the web, really no draft is final.  Updates and revisions can be published on an ongoing basis.  In the “real world,” revision continues indefinitely.

Because I write, I understand that writers need the freedom to write some things that they will not share, and that they may not give themselves the chance to write those things if I do not help them sit their butts down and write.  So my students don’t have to share everything.

Because I read, I understand that a reader might choose a book to read and then feel like abandoning it after 100 pages.  I feel that this is valid.  My students should always be reading something, but I’ve built in opportunities for them to ditch the book they’re on and start over, so long as they finish a book each quarter.

Because I read, I understand that sometimes a reader just needs to read a trashy book. And if the only time they are reading is when I require it, then maybe I should allow them to read some trashy books for independent reading. I regret the year that I told Kendra she couldn’t count Harry Potter for her Honors 10th Grade summer reading because it was meant for younger readers.  I am not trying to say that Harry Potter is trashy, but just that sometimes we make snap judgments about the worth of certain books over others, and sometimes maybe we need to trust the reader a bit more to make her own choices. Really, at the time I was in complete ignorance of what Harry Potter had to offer this girl.

Because I practice what I preach, at least often enough to keep in touch with some of what students experience, I am a better teacher.  What are you willing to do that you also ask of your students?


Amethyst Hinton Sainz

I currently teach English Language Development at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa Public Schools. I love seeing the incredible growth in my students and being an advocate for them. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts. Before this position I taught high school English in Arizona for 20 years.

My alma maters are Blue Ridge High School and the University of Arizona. My bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led me toward the College of Education, and I soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel me throughout my career. My love of language, literature and culture led me to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College for my masters in English Literature. I am a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for me. I enjoy teaching students across the spectrum of academic ability, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education, as well as exploring more topics in STEM.

In recent years, much of my professional development has focused on teacher leadership, but I feel like I am still searching for exactly what that means for me.

I live in Mesa, Arizona with my family. I enjoy them, as well as my vegetable garden, our backyard chickens, our dachshund Roxy, reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), hiking and camping, and travel, among other things.

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