Practice What We Preach

True confession: blogging makes me nervous. It is the vulnerability of putting my thoughts into words and then putting those words on the internet for people to read and judge that worries me the most. It makes me so nervous that I spend the month brainstorming ideas only to throw them all out. When I do start writing, I revise over and over again until I am finally (mostly) content with my writing on the day I am supposed to post. Even after I am done for the month, I will sometimes reread my older blogs just to make sure I did not miss some catastrophic grammatical mistake.

The obvious comparison is that blogging is the same terrifying process we make our students go through when they write. Even with guidance and scaffolding, we ask them to brainstorm ideas, draft, revise, edit, and submit their ideas for our critique. I try to build my students up when it comes to writing. My favorite thing to say when we write rough drafts is “It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to exist so we can make it better later.” And yet, even with encouragement, I still have students dragging their feet on every sentence; they remind me so much of myself.

So, how do we get students over their nervousness and producing writing? We use all the best practices: high interest topics, providing choice and authentic audiences, scaffolding instruction, modeling our own writing, and planning plenty of time for students to work through the writing process. We teachers give lots of feedback, and our students do lots and lots of revision.

For all the time I spend on writing, the piece of the process I always seem to struggle to do with my students is my least favorite step when blogging: publication. If I am being honest, I only have 1 writing assignment that makes it across the finish line to the publication step each year.
So the questions is, if my students know they are going to publish their writing, will it inspire them to do their best work or send them into a nervous spiral where they refuse to submit their assignment? Historically, I have seen the same turn-in rates for regular essays vs student’s published assignments. Would that rate change if I tweaked all of my writing assignments to include a publication aspect? Would my students be inspired to try harder if I showed them my own published writing?

I have not worked up the courage to actually tell students about my blogging, and (luckily) none of them have been bored enough to google me and find my writing yet. I am proud of my work, but I am also not quite sure I want my students diving into my inner thoughts about school and teaching. On the other hand, I do not think it’s fair to keep this all a secret when I ask them to put their writing into the world for my critique. The dilemma then: to share or not to share?

 

Rachel Perugini

I am originally from Pennsylvania where I earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Shippensburg University. In 2012, I moved to Arizona to teach on the Navajo Reservation; I liked the state so much I decided to stay. I taught language arts, reading, and journalism for three years at Many Farms High School. During that time, I earned a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction for Reading. In 2015, I moved to Flagstaff where I currently teach 10th and 11th grade English. I have been an avid reader all my life, so I love that my job gives me that chance to read amazing books with my students all day long.

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