If you have a minimum of talent, but you sit at that typewriter long enough, something will emerge. All I had was this burning desire to be a writer and all these emotions.” – Robert Cromier
I have not written much in a while. Sure, I do semi-frequent blog updates, I write a lot of lesson plans and comments on student papers, and write out a lot (much more so, these days) of checks. But I have not written something creative, original, or even analytic in a long time. It has been 10 months since my last college paper. Some of you may think, “So what? That sounds great!”, which I completely understand. But in many ways, this lack of writing makes me feel almost hypocritical.
Let me explain. I am a language arts teacher. I teach reading and writing. And not only do I teach the act of reading and writing, but I have also decided I am a masochist because I want to teach the joy of reading and writing, which is no small feat for a 7th grade teacher. In so, in this quest of impossibilities, I have my students read, and write, and read, and write some more, all with the hopes that within this reading and writing, a small spark will ignite within them that will feed the ever-glowing embers of the love of language.
Yet, in many ways, I do not practice what I preach. Sure, I have got the reading thing down, although, in all honesty, I should read more than I do (I’m averaging about a book every two weeks, which is not that good. Even some of my students are reading more than I am). And I used to have the writing thing down, until that blissful period called “college” ended and the real world came crashing down around me. Yet, how can I expect my students to understand the value of reading and writing, which, in my opinion, correlates with the practice of these disciplines? How can I say to my students every day, “Writing can be an outlet, a way to express yourself. Just write and you will see what I mean,” when I do not use writing as an outlet myself? Of course, I do value reading and writing, or I would not have chosen to become an English teacher, but do I value it enough?
In a lot of the education books I read, they say that a teacher’s enthusiasm and love of the content can often inspire his/her students. So my question is, do I display my enthusiasm and love of the content? I try, but I think I would be more inspiring if actually DID the content: if I actually read and write daily, as a part of who I am. Readers and writers can only be taught by other readers and writers, no? If expect my students to enter the discourse of reading and writing (both those taught in school and outside of school), then I myself need to enter that discourse and not just stand on the sidelines as an outlooker (which, my students could tell you, means “watcher” as it was one of our vocab words last week. But I digress).
Now, the truth is, I am scared to death. I have not written creatively in a long time, at least not in an inspired way. And I have certainly not written anything analytical or thougth-provoking without the aid of a prompt or professor. But I cannot, and I will not, tell my students one thing and do something else. I tell my students to take risks, to try something and if it doesn’t work, try something else, until they get it right. I tell them to just keep writing, even when they think they have nothing to say (they really hate my “write in your journals for 5 minutes without stopping” warm-ups). I tell them that writing is thinking, and one of the best ways to think is to write down your ideas. I tell them it doesn’t matter how bad of a writer you think you are, practice always makes perfect, and the more writing you do, the better you’ll get.
So I sit in front of my computer, with my seemingly minimum amount of talent, and will sit here until I have something to write. Because inside, I have not only a burning desire to write (and read), but an even larger desire to see my students write. And what better way to teach them than by example?