I lucked into an invitation to hear Lucy Calkins speak at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in San Diego on Saturday, and I spent the day in awe. Lucy is a renowned writing teacher who has written many influential books on the subject. As she spoke about literacy and leadership, I felt the power of her words. My skin tingled with goose bumps, and my heart leapt with excitement. I was at church.
I was exhausted when I got home, but I felt compelled to try to capture the highlights of the day. I contemplated the big ideas from Lucy’s presentation and started to draft a blog post. However, as I tried to synthesize my thoughts, it seemed forced. I spent a day immersed in powerful ideas that resonated, but I was not inspired to write.
Then, Kim Douillard’s daily blog post arrived in my email inbox. Kim candidly shared that she considered not posting to her Thinking Through My Lens blog for one of the first times in close to one-hundrend days. She finally realized that she had something to write about after I Tweeted Ruth Ayers CELEBRATE link-up. Ruth’s Saturday Celebrations prompted Kim to write about celebrating the ordinary, and as I read Kim’s post, I new I had to reconsider letting my own reluctance get the better of me.
Now, as I consider the twists and turns that my thinking took before I successfully wrote one word, I reflect on the expectations we have of our students. What do we do when children struggle with writing tasks? Do we look over their shoulders and demand that they get to work? Do we pass by their desks and impatiently question why they have only written a few words?
Or do we sit down beside them and ask them what will help them get started?
We can’t even begin to imagine what our students might need if we don’t challenge ourselves as writers first. We must write when we are inspired, and we must write when we are not. We need to feel the joy and the pain of the process in order to understand what our students experience.
At the end of her talk, Lucy Calkins encouraged each of us to discover our own narratives in order to counter the negative influences all around us. She urged us to find the “storyline that we want to tell and embody,” and concluded by emphasizing that “we are the authors of our lives. We are the authors of the stories of our schools and our communities. We need a storyline that will give us the strength to move forward.”
As we strive to find the storylines that will give us the strength to move forward, how can we help our students find theirs too? Writing—even when we don’t want to—will help us take our first step. In fact, I think it is more than a step forward. I think it’s cause for celebration. Thank you, Lucy, Ruth, and Kim, for helping me find something to celebrate.