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The Blank Page

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The Blank PageToday I’m reminded of a quote a colleague recently shared from Pathway to the Common Core by Lucy Calkins, Chris Lehman and Mary Ehrenworth. Novelist and award-winning publisher, Margaret Atwood, was quoted on page 106.

“The fact is the blank page inspires me with terror. What will I put on them? Will it be good enough? Will I have to throw it out? The trick is to sit at the desk anyway, everyday.”

I started the Slice of Life Blogging Challenge  for the first time on March 1st. I have committed to writing everyday this month. It is now March 4th and I am at a loss as to what to write about. I, too, stare at the black page with terror. I could easily throw in the towel, but I believe in finishing what I start. So, I will just write and let something come to me.

As a teacher I implemented a reader/writer workshop approach in my classroom. I used to have a similar quote – “Conquer the power of the blank page” when my students sat frozen not knowing what to write. We generated a lot of topic ideas, but I also encouraged them to just get something written down. Those words can change, but if you don’t start you will still be left with nothing.    

My love of the reader/writer workshop approach stemmed from taking part in the  Iowa Writing Project many years ago. During the week-long summer project I experienced authentic writing – not just “school” writing. I wrote for real audiences – not just an assignment to be turned in, read by an instructor, and marked up with everything I had done wrong. It was invigorating! It was scary! It was real! After that experience I knew drastic changes were needed in my approach to teaching writers.

As an educator I believe in order to teach READERS, I must BE a READER. In order to teach WRITERS, I need to BE a WRITER. In order to expect others to be LEARNERS, I must BE a LEARNER!

I recently ran across a chart on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog that detailed the difference between assigning/teaching writing and teaching writers. Experiences like this Slice of Life Challenge are also providing us, as adult writers, to emulate aspects in the third column. We have developed long-term writing plans, we are figuring out the genre that will get our message across, we are reading and commenting on other blogs as a way to grow as writers, we revisit past writing, we may be using each others writing as mentor text, we are constantly self-reflecting and our blogs serve as our own writing portfolio! We are writers!

Writing

Yet, we are a handful of educators. There are many others who aren’t sitting down and struggling with the blank page each day this month. I appreciate the message in this short video clip by Dr. Steven Graham from Arizona State University. He encourages teachers to find opportunities to write, such as join a writing group. I would expand this thought to administrators, instructional coaches, curriculum directors – etc… We all must WALK THE TALK! As an aspiring administrator, I stated this blog several years ago for just that reason. I felt blogging would be a good opportunity for teachers and students to write for authentic audiences. I knew I needed to experience blogging first hand before I could expect teachers or students to incorporate blogging. That initial reasoning has turned into so much more. I am not just figuring out what blogging is all about so I can encourage others to blog. I am writing to encourage myself. I am writing to discover myself. I am writing to better myself. I am writing to contribute and make a difference in the world.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkenx4tN5zs]

Tomorrow is a new blank page. What will I write? What will you write? Pick up a pen (or computer) and conquer the blank page!

Categories: Blogging, CCSS, Common Core, Instructional Strategies, Strategies, Writing
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10 Comments to The Blank Page

  1. Meg Blaze (@blazemeg)
    March 4, 2014 10:11 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement. This has been harder than I thought it would be. I start and stop over and over. I stay up too late and finally write something. It feels like a triumph to finish each day, and I can only hope it will be easier by the end of the month!

    • Kathy Perret
      March 4, 2014 10:19 pm

      I agree – this challenge has been a lot harder than I thought, too! For each of the other days I had started the post the night before and then finished during the day. Today I was stuck. The challenge has certainly opened my eyes to seek more inspiration! What will we find tomorrow?

      Best wishes on your own journey!

      Kathy

  2. tammyyoga
    March 4, 2014 10:14 pm

    Wow, you packed a lot in this post. I’m impressed and inspired!

  3. marykatbpcsc45
    March 4, 2014 10:57 pm

    Hi, really important slice. I loved to teach researchers and writers in my library. Now that I am retired I am trying to encourage my owner daughter to write more. I like that you point out to encourage reading you have to be a reader and likewise with writing. I try to set an example for her and write and read daily.. Thanks for sharing. Here is my slice:

    http://mary-anderingcreatively.blogspot.com/2014/03/an-early-spring-surprise.html

  4. franmcveigh
    March 5, 2014 4:09 am

    Kathy,
    Too often we don’t seem to acknowledge that “giving up” or “quitting” is a strategy. Not the one that we would like to encourage; still a strategy that students may quickly use.
    Too often, teachers and adults also forget what it is to “struggle” as our routines do become our habits and maybe today is a little less enthusiastic, but it gets the work done in a perfunctory way. Continuing on despite, or in spite of challenges, is incredibly easy.
    Thanks for your thoughtfulness!

  5. Amy's Reflections
    March 5, 2014 12:44 pm

    Great post! I agree that we need to be readers and writers in order to be strong teachers of reading and writing. I discovered this after attending Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project one summer as a young teacher. Keep filling up those blank pages!

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