Why writing? Why now? Or perhaps that second question should be why not? There seems to be a pervading belief throughout education that writing belongs solely to the English domain, that time and resources prohibit its incorporation into lessons in other core areas of teaching; however, the practice of writing, and drawing by extension, is humankind’s oldest form of communication. For retention of information, for sparking innovative ideas and new connections, writing remains one of our strongest tools. Consistent, content-rich writing practice facilitates our students’ abilities to elaborate, support with evidence, think logically, organize, collaborate, and think “outside the box”. Certainly, the daily practice of writing is crucial for those interested in making it part of their creative lives, because developing a life centered around published writing requires a person to do the work every day. More than that, though, writing well, developing those synapses that allow us to communicate effectively and familiarly with other human beings, simply enriches our lives. I believe that is what we are in the business of doing: enriching our students’ lives through learning. Writing is work, and it can be difficult, but it can also be fun and can readily open a student’s mind for learning.
This summer, I completed work through George Mason University’s Northern Virginia Writing Project, where we ate, slept, and breathed writing for four intensive weeks. Here, teachers from every grade level and many subject areas collaborated daily on ways to incorporate writing into their lessons. Visiting presenters from area high schools, George Mason University, and Johns Hopkins University fitted us with invaluable tools to enrich our students’ experiences through the practice of writing in the coming year. With their modeling as a scaffold, we presented our own lessons, the best of the best writing ideas that we had used in our classrooms. Additionally, we did the work of writing. We wrote morning pages for thirty minutes each day, met in writers groups, developed solid pieces of writing, and published an anthology. As was the program’s intent, we left as teachers of writing who also write.
As an extension of these experiences, I am initiating this blog: The Write Stuff – Virginia. Using my background as a columnist for Front Porch Magazine, I will provide my readers interviews with teachers throughout the state of Virginia who use writing as an integral part of their lessons. Of course, you will see many ideas from English teachers here, but I plan to reach out to instructors of all content areas and grade levels to facilitate a movement of educators who view writing as an essential piece of their teaching philosophy.