Would you read what your students write if you weren’t paid to do so?

Lots of questions in this post…and this is definitely a post that I am writing to understand my learning, not necessarily share it.  I would love to know what you think.

Teacher-extraordinaire, Kelli Holden, shared this video of her former student Maddisyn reading to Kelli’s current class.  Maddisyn was sharing about an experience she had four years ago where she blogged on PSD70’s 184 Days of Learning Project, and the author of the book that she wrote on, Peter Reynolds, actually commented to her. It was a big moment for her at the time, and she wanted to share her experience with Kelli’s current class.

As I watched her video, two things really stuck out to me.  The first was that the students she was talking to were almost nonchalant about the opportunity to speak to authors of books, since this is something that is becoming more of a norm than an exception (in some classrooms). The access is there but are we as educators willing to embrace it?

The other thing that stood out to me was when Maddisyn said the following:

“It was a really big deal for me…because most creative writing you do in grade 2 and grade 4ish, doesn’t really get out there, doesn’t really make a difference.”

This is a very powerful statement from Maddisyn (and you can see how much her time with Kelli still resonates with her)  but I am going to rewind back to a conversation I had earlier in the week with an educator.

As I was working with high school teachers, I asked an english teacher the following question:

“Would you read what your students write if you weren’t paid to do so?”

She kind of laughed and nodded “no”, but is this not true in many situations? I have heard many teachers talk about their lack of excitement to read the essays of their students on the weekend, but I can’t think of one time that I have heard the opposite.

This is not saying that students are poor writers, but do we actually encourage them to write in a way that is compelling to read?  When Maddisyn was sharing her experience, she understands her work is going out to the world, and even at the grade 4 level, she wants people to read it.  Do we teach students to write in compelling ways that someone would actually want to read what they write, or do we teach them to write in a way that we can say we have simply taught to the curriculum?

An argument I have heard often is that we need to prepare students to write at the post-secondary level, but is this enough?  The way that many people write at the post-secondary level is also unappealing to many, not because of the ability of the person writing, but because of the expectations of the system.  If we are only prepare students to write at the post-secondary level, are we ignoring many of the opportunities that students have to be creators online, not simply consumers?

I love this quote attributed to Rushton Hurley:

Is “good enough” our standard or are we reaching for something much deeper and much more profound?

Yes…there are definitely structural elements to writing that are crucial to teach, but there is also an emotional appeal that is necessary for writing that resonates.  Do we feel something when we read what has been written?  Does the writing resonate after we are finished reading it?

I’ve had experience teaching english several years ago, and so much has changed since then. Is the type of writing that I am speaking of taught by many teachers, or is it the exception?  How often does a student write something in school that catches momentum outside of education circles?  Is this one of the goals of work in today’s education systems?

If it isn’t, should it be?

Would love to know your thoughts as I am still trying to work mine out.

Source: George Couros