I’m already starting to have dreams of inadequacy. No naked ones yet, but definitely headed in that direction. So far they are just dreams in which I can’t figure out something really basic, like putting on underwear. It seems like it’s just a matter of time until I fall asleep to find myself completely naked in a public place.
For the past two days I’ve been reading some essays that are part of a study in which students are given an on-demand writing task in the fall and again in the spring. It is assumed that their teachers will be instructing them in doing multiple-text, claim-based writing all year, and that measurable improvement will occur between the two essays. The problem is, I saw little improvement between any of the essays I read. My friend who is deeply involved in this project says how carefully you have to look to see the subtle improvement, and don’t I just love that rubric? Being far less invested in the project than she is, I failed to see much change at all, subtle or otherwise. Occasionally, I saw what she meant, but it was rare. Mostly I just read a ton of terrible essays.
I learned who some of the teachers were, and they were people I respect. Other readers were commiserating about the papers, wondering what they could to help that teacher, and does she just not really know how to teach writing? Does she just talk a good line? So (you probably know where this is going…) this leads me to myself. Do I know how to teach kids to write? How do I do it? Will I notice if my students improve? Shall I start with journals and write every day with them? Does that help at all, or is it just a time filler? How directly must I teach writing? Will that beat any desire to write out of them? What results can you expect with twelve year olds? Do they like to read and write, or have they already lost that? If someone reads papers my students write, will they be saying that I don’t know how to teach writing and I’m all talk? What if that’s true?!
I plan to begin the year with an inquiry stance, and keep anecdotal notes on it all. I’m not exactly sure what my question will be yet, but I think it will be a matter of narrowing it down to only one. There is certainly no dearth of them at this point.