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Teachers Always Write

Community Of Writers

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ISBN 10: 1592991963 / ISBN 13: 9781592991969
Published by INKWATER PRESS, 2006
Used Condition: Good Soft cover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Teachers Always Write


Publication Date: 2006

Binding: Trade Paperback

Book Condition: Good

About this title


Students in our schools rarely see their teachers write anything other than referrals, lesson plans or red-pencil comments on their work. They never see the teacher write a poem, short story, or letter to the editor. much less rewrite it. But Community of Writers, a nonprofit program to improve writing instruction and student achievement in our classrooms, encourages teachers to write. In fact, we demand it. We want them to be partners with their students in the writing process. The stories in this book are a very small sampling of the writing these teachers can produce. These teachers are not professional writers. but they are professional in their dedication to inspire their students.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Robin Bacon-Shone
Teacher, Portland Public Schools

There are two piles really: the one you see and the one you don’t. The pile you see is 130 sheets of notebook paper, some wide-ruled and some college-ruled. On each sheet is an assignment waiting for comments, class credit or a grade. These 130 samples of handwriting vary from meticulous script to illegible scratching and appear on papers that may be crisp or tattered. The Pile is there in a dusty corner of my mind whenever I eat or drive or go out to dance. I may burst through my front door exhilarated at 6:00 p.m. or drag myself home exhausted at 1:00 a.m. Regardless, the Pile waits up for me patiently – never prodding but ever present. It grows and shrinks through ten school months until finally, in mid-June sunshine, what little is left of it sprouts legs, romps off my desk, and swan dives into a deep pool of recycled paper. By this time, the Pile’s creators already have jack-knifed into local swimming holes and headed off to high school. You probably see this as a pile of drudgery, a stack of trash that exacts from me several hours of lonely concentration several nights a week for thirty-six weeks a year.

You probably pity me. Don’t. Remember, this is only the pile you see, not the pile I see. I look forward to the calm, electric hours when I am most alert – very late at night. This is crucial teaching time spent evaluating what already has been learned well and planning what will come next. Encouraged by soothing, surrounding stillness, the Pile speaks to me in the various voices of its authors. As I sift painstakingly through each sheet in turn, I hear as music the exact pitch, tone and timbre of each student’s unique voice struggling to communicate something important to me in a language that is, to him or her, new and foreign. Through daily assignments over the course of a school year, I see teenagers in goofy-grape braces flinch in frustration or grin with the glow of understanding. In language not native to her ears or tongue, one brunette in chic jeans and a tight-fitting tank top declares confidently, "Soy de Las Vegas, pero me gusta más vivir aquí en Oregón con mis amigas tontas." (I’m from Las Vegas, but I prefer living here in Oregon with my silly girlfriends.) A dance team member shows temerity. Her quavering utterances are correct but curt, for fear of stumbling in her climb to the next rung on the ladder of proficiency. "Soy de Portland como mis amigos," she writes. (I’m from Portland like my friends.) With abandon, our blond student body president flirts boldly; he didn’t get to be head of student government by following the maxim, "Look before you leap." "Soy alumno norteamericano," he begins his tease. "¡Me gusto las chicas!" (An attempt to say, "I’m a male American student. I like girls!") I am warmed with the thought that all of these teens have something that they’re just dying to tell me. Not one voice is mute. I write back, at first in short, easily understood phrases. But as the year progresses, my responses pose new language puzzles for my students to solve; so that this act of assessment transforms itself into 130 individualized Spanish lessons. Here with this Pile, I engage in thoughtful conversation with each of over one hundred teenagers several times a week. This heap of dog-eared papers, which appears to you to be so dead, pulses with the beat of 130 teenagers starving to learn something challenging, exciting and useful. Although in class, some may be too cool or self-conscious to risk a misstep, on paper they all feel safe enough to jump right off a cliff. My comments of encouragement and gentle correction will guide them, until they can stitch together a parachute or grow wings. To me, this Pile is beautiful. Can you see it now?

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