Throughout my years in school, writing was a foundation that grounded me and allowed me the freedom to explore my beliefs, focus my creative energies, and feel successful in a climate where I often felt like the odd one out. From this, I would have to say that my position on the teaching of writing and its use as a tool for learning is one that allows it to remain organic, allows it room to change and breathe, and one where criticism remains limited to what works well in student work, rather than what the student has done incorrectly. Writing is such a personal venture, and no matter which form it takes that must be respected.
Writing should always be approached relative to the writer’s experience. When it grows out of a natural understanding of the world, students have the opportunity to explore any subject on their own terms. Writing is unique in this way, especially when we are locked into a rigid climate of curriculum and standards that may seem irrelevant to many of our students. Our students should have the freedom to approach content with personal connections and by exploring interests as unique and varied as themselves. This authentic connection with the world through writing provides an environment rich with learning opportunities and growth.
Given to change, writing requires room to breathe. It should be viewed as an organic component in our curriculum that should not always be subject to rubrics and grades. Drafts are changeable; nothing has to be forever. Even a final draft may one day have revisions. We should impart to students that the final draft required on a due date or test is simply the best version they can possibly create on that date. It is a vivid lesson on living in the present, but also one of loosening attachments – attachments to ideas about fixed ability, perfection, and mastery. By facilitating an environment where students see their writing as a living thing, we provide a model for the way ideas and constructs in society change and evolve.
Criticism should be limited and constructive in nature. We, as teachers, should focus on what works well in student papers, encouraging them to do more of these things rather than highlighting what is wrong. Form and function should be taught for what they are – tools for communication, for the reader’s ease, and to drive a point home. Some of the best writing happens when the tools are used in ways that fall outside the norm. Writing should be innovation and mind-expanding. This is where we want our students to be comfortable in their learning.
The personal nature of the written craft must be respected. Even as English teachers, we cannot approach this tool as one over which we have actual domain, as it is a tool that is as inherent, unique, and personal to each of us. It is our voice. It is our self.