Leading by example: Readers and writers don’t just happen.

When my Mass Communications students turned in their fall semester final projects, almost every single student mentioned something about how our class is a writing class, which made me proud and confused all at once. I was proud because writing is a part of everything we do, both in class, and I believe, in the way we communicate with others. But I was also a little confused because I had never TOLD them this — that our class was a writing class.

And that’s when I realized that it matters not even a little bit what I tell them. What matters is what we’re living. I can tell them that class will be fun, that I value their opinions, that education is important, but they won’t believe me if I don’t MAKE those things true and lead with my example. In fact, I might as well not say a thing.

This morning I watched last night’s episode of #KidsDeserveIt. Adam and Todd’s guest, Mandy Ellis, talked about the importance of giving kids access to books “with no strings attached,” and when she spoke about her one frustration in education leadership, it resonated deeply with me: If we want to create a culture of reading, why aren’t we all reading?

As research and experience have proven, reading and writing go hand-in-hand, and I have continued to be frustrated myself when teachers and administrators complain that their students “aren’t writers.” My response recently has been a simple question: “Are you?”

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image via @writersedit on Twitter

I don’t think any of us have to be incredible writers or readers of the deepest and most profound texts to be good at showing kids the importance of writing and reading. Quite simply, we just have to start with DOING those two things in our classrooms and schools. Maybe growing up someone turned reading into a chore for us, or maybe we feel uncomfortable writing because we’ve never felt “good” at it (or maybe our writing assignments were all prompts on boring books and we saw no personal utility in it so we didn’t give much effort or feel any inspiration). No matter the reason for avoidance, if we want our students to read and write, we need to do more than tell them those are important; we need to live those valuable activities with them.

Pick up a book. Pick up a pen. Grab your tablet. Start today — it’s that simple, and #KidsDeserveIt.

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2 thoughts on “Leading by example: Readers and writers don’t just happen.

  1. David Freitag says:

    Totally agree. We cannot ask students to be readers and writers if we are not readers and writers ourselves.

    A lot of teachers say, “I can’t wait for the summer so I can read for pleasure,” and they don’t read much else during the year other than student writing. But you always have time for the things that are actually important to you–if you really want to read more, you will be able to find time.

    Writing is terrifying for most people because writing–even non-fiction–requires some degree of emotional vulnerability. Even if you don’t share your writing with anyone, digging inside yourself and turning what you find into words can get uncomfortable quickly. People who write habitually are just used to that discomfort and know to expect it and work through it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • thesecondyearteacher says:

      Absolutely, David. And like most other things in life, the fear exists usually only BEFORE the event. If we can overcome the anxiety about starting, most often we will see that there is nothing to fear.

      My nephew told his mom and I last night that he didn’t like writing because he always has to write about topics his teachers give him. He has learned, unintentionally, that writing is a thing you do for school rather than for yourself. Many of us have to unlearn that, too — that writing is an opportunity for ourselves rather than a task to be completed and forgotten.

      Thanks for reading and commenting. It means so much to get to continue the conversation.

      Like

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