More than half of the posts on my Metawriting blog have been about writing – 55% in fact. Clearly, writing and the teaching of writing are passions of mine. You do not need to meet me in person and you do not need to stalk me online for very long to discover these facts. I have been teaching writing for a long time now and invariably I receive two responses when I identify myself as a writing teacher.
The most common response is the self-deprecating comment about “watching their grammar” followed by a chuckle. I don’t always commit acts of violence, but when I do it is because someone conflated grammar and writing. Don’t get me wrong. I can swoon over a perfectly constructed sentence just like the next rhetorician, but grammar and other rules of proper English are not at the top of my list when it comes to evaluating a writer – not even in the top part of the list. I care a lot more about the message and its impact on audience, but most of all I care about the writer and that is why the next most common response breaks my heart. “How do I make my [self, kid, employees, students] write better?”
This question so often breaks my heart, because it is a topic I can enthusiastically discuss at great length (see the first sentence of this blog post) but all too often the person asking the question (as well as our politicians and far too many educators) believe there is a workbook or app or formula – a quick fix – to teach writing. For too long too many have believed that high school English or college composition can inoculate students against future bad writing.
The truth is that there is no quick fix for bad writing. There is an easy fix, but it involves guiding writers instead of teaching writing. I often describe what I do as teaching writing for simplicity, but in my heart and mind and soul that is not what I do. I teach writers. I coach writers. I support writers. That is because I am a National Writing Project teacher (see You Can’t Teach the Writing Process: How to Make Writers by Showing Not Telling). Here is my easy formula for making writers:
- Write. Write a lot. Write about everything. Write in everything. Write all day. Write every day.
- Read. Read a lot. Read about everything. Read in everything. Read all day. Read every day.
- Reflect. Reflect on what you write. Reflect on what you read. Reflect on questions. Reflect on answers. Reflect on inspirations. Reflect on dreams. Reflect on fears.
- Community. Find people to write among. Find people to read among. Find people to reflect among. Find people who inspire your writing. Find people who inspire your reading. Find people who inspire your reflection. Find people who inspire you.
Your classroom should inspire writing and reading and reflection and community – not in any one particular order but in a constant, flowing cycle. That is how you make writers (and readers and thinkers) and that, my friends, is how we save the world.
How do you make writers? How can we save the world?