Monday, October 10, 2011

The National Day on Writing: Why I Write

We Teaching Authors are kicking off a series of posts to celebrate The National Day on Writing on October 20th.

The event's official website includes a section of famous authors' testimnials on the subject of  "Why I Write."
Because we as teachers spend an inordinate amount of time trying to motivate our students to do the same, this is an important question for most of us.

My daughter is in first grade, and her class is starting a school newspaper (!).  The teacher recently had a guest photographer and journalist from our local paper talk to them about the process.  Everyone in Kate's class signed up to be either a photographer or a writer.  Kate said, "Most kids wanted to be photographers.  But I picked writer.  Because I love to write!"  But when asked why, the best she could articulate was, "Because it's fun!" 

Indeed, I have observed that the ability to write with some fluency has opened up new worlds for my daughter.  Our house is full of notes and signs and cards and lists -- favorite candies; things I like to do; things my roly poly needs if I keep him in a cup in my house.  Today my four-year-old went to school with a note taped to the front of his shirt.  I want to save every scrap of paper (I've been taking pictures of them) -- such a wonderful snapshot of this precious time in our lives. 

Kate decided the other day to start a science journal.  She was so eager to get home to work on it that she did not want to do anything else after school.  Here is an excerpt:

Of course you will note that her handwriting is atrocious, her spelling is poor, and she seems to have little idea as to where to put a period.  However, I really don't care. Reading this gave me such a clear idea of her hopes and dreams -- from little acorn to tree to tire swing. 

Writing helps us dream -- and dream big.  My daughter, as I have mentioned before, is a worrier.  When someone suggested that she journal about her worries, she was delighted.  Doing so has helped her crystallize her fears and even consider how she might make them go away. 

Writing can be therapeutic for us all.  When we are struggling with problems and we pour them out in a facebook or message board post, an email to a friend -- sometimes just "saying it" is all it takes to unburden ourselves and feel better.

Writing is like talking, only in some ways even better -- because we have the ability to edit, to say EXACTLY what we want the world to hear.  Having others read and respond is the natural and important culmination of the process, which is why a student newspaper or a mash-up or a blog is truly an awesome tool.

I was volunteering in my daughter's classroom the other day, and the teacher had each student make lists of their interests in order to generate writing ideas.  Every time they have an assignment, they look at the list.  (One student had a gem, claiming to be an expert at 'being bored.')  The teacher is working with them on enticing beginnings, interesting conclusions, and good supportive details in the middle -- in other words, exactly what I'm doing with my college students.  

Somewhere along the way, sadly, so many lose their passion.  I hope my daughter is not one of them.  I hope I'm not one of them.  Thanks to all of you for being part of the nurturing community that keeps us all going.    Happy writing to all!    --Jeanne Marie


Jackie Castle said...

Great post and I'm glad to have the link to the NDW. I, too, wanted to post about this special day. Next month starts the annual National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. One year when I was teaching an after school young writers club, we participated as a group. It was fun and I actually wrote a complete book during the process.
Now I blog about reading and have started posting writing lessons on Wednesdays. Guess I'll always want to urge kids to write. Something. Anything. Just write! =)

Sandra Stiles said...

I loved this post and the fact your daughter is developing a love for writing. I teach Language Arts and have always had students read when they've completed their work. I had a young lady ask if she could write instead. I asked her what she wanted to write and her reply was, "Oh just any story that comes into my head. I love to write." I told her she could and another student looked at me and said, "You allow us to do creative writing that isn't a lesson?" Now we know how students lose their passion for writing. Too many teachers take the "fun" out of writing.

Jeanne Marie Grunwell Ford said...

Jackie and Sandra, thanks for your comments. Sandra, I, too, worry about taking the 'fun' out of writing. All those BCRs!

Jackie, happy NaNoWriMo in advance!