Authentic Writing and Authentic Teaching

All, Reflections

2020 was a good blogging year for me apparently. This is my 50th blog post for the year and represents a serious uptick from recent years. What is really interesting to me is that I also filled more journal pages than ever before. I guess something good came out the pandemic. I know this year has changed me as a writer, a teacher, and a human even as it changed the world.


My first post for 2020 was about my ongoing #ungrading journey although when I wrote Conference Grading 2.0 I still did not recognize where that journey would take me. When I wrote Conference Grading 3.0 and the 3 Rs I foolishly thought I had completed my journey, but as I write in Ungrading Reflections that was just not true. I remain firmly on the ungrading team but there is still work to do – at least while teaching/learning during a pandemic. Perhaps my new plans will be one of my first posts in 2021?

Gaming Writing

My second post of 2020, A Perfect Storm: Walrus and Claims, was one of four focused on games for the year. As this was only the second time I’d built my Writing 2 class entirely around games I probably would have written more posts about the experience if not for the pandemic. However, Gaming the Teaching of Writing provided my argument for using games to teach writing and I expect to write a blog post before the start of the new semester about my plans for the third iteration of this class. Hacking Our Game Jam was definitely a game-themed blog post but also a post inspired by our new teaching/learning conditions. How To Begin Gaming Your Classroom was inspired by a question from a friend. I continue to believe in the power of games to inspire learning – especially learning about critical thinking and rhetoric. I also know that we owe it to our students and ourselves to make learning as fun as possible: before, during, and after a pandemic. That is definitely one of my 2021 goals.

Authentic Writing

My third post of 2020, Can We Talk About Authentic Writing?, was a reflection that was long overdue for me personally as a teacher of writers and writing teachers and one that I suggest all teachers of writing engage in. I believe if we focused more of our efforts on authentic writing then so many of the issues that supposedly plague our field (plagiarism, engagement, transfer) would diminish. In 3 Ways This I Believe Essays Support Writing Instruction I make the argument that TIB essays are authentic writing in every way with a real world audience (if you choose) and deeply personal topic. I wrote more than one blog post in 2020 that highlighted the type of authentic writing we too often overlook in our focus on academic writing. Heal: My #OLW for 2020 is an example of personal reflection through writing that has helped me countless times throughout my life and affected my students when we have done such work in class.

Authentic writing should also reflect what is on the hearts and minds of the humans in our classrooms and communities. Writing Protest was my attempt to capture what was on my heart and mind and set up my approach to teaching my American Creed theme in the fall. Throughout the fall we focused on Good Faith Arguments and Shared Values and as we struggled through a challenging fall I was so pleased I had chosen to ground my teaching and our writing in values. But some of the most powerful work that came out those classes was inspired by our class writing marathons. Those marathons also served to remind me that one of my primary goals is to help my students find joy in writing as well as meaning.

Authentic Teaching

Rereading Third Stream: Music, Teaching, and Writing which was written in the before times when we were free to travel, eat out, and enjoy live concerts brought back so many memories, but it also reminded me that we must always stay in touch with our authentic selves as teachers as well as writers. That work led me to rethink the central metaphor of my teaching in Let’s Stop Calling It The Writing Process and the implementation of my Four-Square Writing Plan which includes The Case For Narrative Argument and Why (and how) I Teach Rhetorical Analysis plus some more tips for Teaching Writers To Consider Their Rhetorical Situation.

Reworking my unit workflow, weekly work, and lessons only reinforced my love of teaching with hyperdocs and as my work to improve the Feedback Loops and Checking In with my students continued. Maybe one day I will have My Workshop Process locked down.

But I know that as I continue to grow as a teacher there will always be new ideas to explore in my classroom such as Conversation Tables: An interactive annotated bibliography and Community Support: More than icebreakers. Some of my teaching posts, such as Pitching the Grid, shared tips for adjusting old methods to our new teaching reality. Collaborating On A Class Reading List and The Open Online Texts I Use To Mentor and Inspire were continuations of a teaching evolution. I shared one of the frameworks I find useful for thinking and teaching in The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. My work with snaps has continued as well in Using Snaps to Inspire Thinking and Writing.

Pandemic Teaching

While the pandemic influenced every time I taught in 2020 from the sudden shift in the spring to our uncertain fall, I wrote a number of blog posts about pandemic teaching and learning to both come to terms with my own experience and offer advice from my years of online and hybrid teaching beginning with What Happens When Life Forces Your Class Online? and (Re)Orientation. I had a lot of thoughts about pandemic teaching in None of This is Normal. Some blog posts, such as Adapting Your Blackboard Shell. were in direct response to friends shifting online for the first time. It is interesting (to me at least) to compare my initial plans for pandemic teaching to my reflections about the semester. I spent a lot of time over the summer thinking and blogging about the priorities of the pandemic classroom as found in Building A HyFlex Community, Teaching Online: Things Just Got Real, and Orientation. As I reread my post Defeating the Midterm Wall I wonder if this is the mid-pandemic wall, but I know that this advice applies equally for mid-semester, mid-year, and mid-pandemic. I completed my pandemic writings with an important reminder in Your PLN is Your Pandemic Multi-Purpose Survival Tool.

Looking back at my 2020 blog posts has helped me put this challenging year in perspective and make some plans for 2021 and that alone makes the exercise worthwhile for me. I can only hope that others might find inspiration in my explorations of ungrading, gaming, and authentic writing and teaching if the entire 2020 recap is a bit much – and may we all never have to think about pandemic teaching again. That is my most fervent wish for us all.


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