Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let's Celebrate nErDcamp and Teachers As Writers!


It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating teachers as writers!

*throws confetti*

On Monday and Tuesday, I spent time with awesome educators at nErDcamp! It was so fun to be part of this awesome literacy-focused, unconference again. Last year, nErDcamp was awesome but this year it was even better. This year, we had sessions on Monday afternoon and the Nerdy 5k and then Tuesday was similar to last year with session planning in the morning and afternoon and four sessions spread throughout the day. 


Here are pictures with the awesome Nerdy crew! I'm still amazed by how fantastic this event was. I wish I had been more help but the credit really goes to Colby, Alaina, Suzanne, Donalyn, Niki, Brian and Kristin in pulling it all together. (I just realized I don't have a picture with Donalyn! Boo. But hooray for Donalyn, too!) What a wonderful group to be part of. I still shake my head at how lucky I am to have such fun friends who are willing to spend the time and energy to make nErDcamp happen all for the love of learning. 
  
What I love about unconferences like nErDcamp and Edcamp, is that it's not about the presenters or the vendors, it's about bringing people together to share and to be part of the discussion. I hope all the sessions captured the essence of this. I know the sessions I ran on Monday and the ones I attended on Tuesday did and by the end, when everyone gathered in the auditorium for the final smackdown, it seemed like the energy and love was really there. 
 
I'm going a bit backwards here, but Monday afternoon, my sessions were called Nerd Up! and the focus was on bringing the same passion and love of being part of Nerdy Book Club and modeling that for students to working with student writers. After being part of Teachers Write the last two summers, I've really embraced writing. I loved using writers notebooks with students and looking at mentor texts and going through the writing process with kids. My belief is that reading and writing are interconnected and that we should help kids build a love of reading as much as writing. What I've noticed through Teachers Write is that while there are lots of people who have a passion for reading and are sharing that with students, there are lots of people who don't feel as confident in their own writing. I totally understand this but I also believe that they only way to be more in touch with student writers is to actually write and experience the messiness of the writing process and all the feelings that come with going through it. 

I tried something completely new and scary but I think it was successful. As much as I can stand up there and tell people they are writers and try to convince them to write with students, I know people have to see why and decide for themselves that it's something they want to do. So...instead, I put a statement up on the screen and asked people to question storm - to come up with 5-6 questions about the statement. I explained that I didn't have answers and didn't expect them to have answers, but that by asking questions we might get our brains thinking of possible answers. Here's the statement:



Only writers 
have any business 
teaching writing.

Can you see why I was scared? I knew some people might be mad at me for this...and I told them it was okay to be mad. You know what? I didn't have to be scared because the awesome people in my sessions had goosebump-worthy discussions and came up with super thoughtful questions. As I walked around and listened in on conversations, I could tell they were stretching their brains and thinking about what it means to be a writer and how to support students as writers as much as they support them as readers.

After small group discussion and question-storming (you can read the notes here: https://docs.google.com/a/u-46.org/document/d/1AdY747WtoGjjX1wvSuyxjXbTjvF487BysjI0aS7yYNM/mobilebasic?pli=1we talked as a whole group and then I asked each person to think of a question they wanted to take with them to continue to think about writing with students. Here are some of the thoughtful questions people came up with:
How can I model the connections we make 
from reading a book to our own writing?  
What does that look like?

How will I share my writing to show my students that I am a writer?


How do I learn to read with a writer's lens?


How do teachers of writing get to a place 

where they can comfortably claim the title of writer?

How might I help my students to see themselves 

as writers and to think like writers?

How might I live my life as much as a writer as I am reader?


How might I change my perception of myself from non-writer to writer? 
How might I lead my students to change their perceptions?


The last two questions came from Amanda Davies (below left) who asked me to lead a session on mentor texts on Tuesday afternoon. I loved her enthusiasm for embracing writing. At lunch on Tuesday, I talked with Crystal Brunelle (below right) who has done NaNoWriMo three times now and Teachers Write since we started. She shared with me that she only now kind of, sort of feels like a writer - but she is a writer! Both of these ladies really pushed me to think about myself and how I see myself and others as writers.

I believe in the statement above...BUT only because I define the word "writer" as anyone who writes. You don't have to be published and it doesn't matter what you write. Don't we all write e-mails and Twitter posts and notes to friends or parents? Maybe we write poems or short stories, fiction or non-fiction. But as much as all reading counts, all writing counts. I believe we are all writers, I'm just not sure everyone identifies themselves as a writer. I also believe that if you see yourself as a writer and think more like a writer and recognize how the writing process fits into your life, then you see yourself more as a writer and are more likely to get better as a writer.

Overall, my whole nErDcamp experience was completely fulfilling and inspiring! Thanks to everyone who made it and if you haven't been, mark your calendar for next July 6th and 7th! 

What are you celebrating this week?

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