Teachers write to teach writing

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In Writing Alone and With Others, Pat Schneider says that teachers need to feel confidence in their own writing. It’s the best way to assure success in leading students in writing, Schneider says:

If you are a teacher, the most important preparation for your teaching is the liberation of your own writing voice. If you know how to feel reasonably confident and safe when you do your own writing, you will be most able to help your students. If yoiu know in the privacy of your own mind tthat wirting brings up fear for you, use that knowledge as you teach. Talk about that fear with your students and admit that it still plagues you. What a liberating thing for a student to hear. Let writing time be the one place in the school experience where teacher and student are “in this together.”

Teachers can come into class with what Schneider calls “a solid suit of armor.” Those are the defenses acquired in a tough writing class, no matter how long ago. A teacher who’s still afraid of writing “unconsciously teaches that fear to their students.”

This is why positive response teaches more than what is good about a writer’s work. The method at the heart of Schneider’s Amherst Writers & Artists method instills the feeling of freedom, the willingness to experiment. Do you feel more like writing after being in a workshop or writing group, or less like writing? That’s the best test of a class. “You should never be made to feel embarrassment or shame in the classroom,” she says in her book. “If that happens, there is something wrong with the way the writing is being taught.”

Positive response reinforces what a writer does well. Before long, the writer notices what’s working, and why it works. A teacher lets the students be the stars. And that is easier to do when a teacher is confident about their own voice on the page.

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