Every semester I have my Creative Writing students write their "Writing Autobiography". They write an essay explaining their feelings about writing---whether they like it, loathe it, tolerate it or are secret poets. The essays help me get to know them and their writing. I can plan mini-lessons and big lessons. I find out who to nag at and who to let simmer. I know who needs help coming up with writing ideas and who will find their own. Here's what this semester's classes have to say. I think they speak to all writing teachers...
I have a few like KC, who told me, "Well, to tell you the truth, I love to write. I will write all the time. Well pretty much any time I have a chance. You could say I’m a secret poet." Don't you love those words, "secret poet". She will do well this semester.
And then I have VH. I wrote back to her and said I can hardly wait to read what she has to write. "Since second grade I’ve known I had an author’s heart, and I’ve grown up with writing built into the very foundation of my being." She most definitely has an "author's heart". You should read her quickwrites--magic. VH will make me believe in the power of writing throughout the semester. She will be the one I read when I begin to wonder if I am teaching them anything at all about writing. Because, you see, I read many more essays that sounded like these:
"The most enjoyable thing about writing to me is when you don’t have to do it. The things I did write outside of school and the ones i did inside of school were nothing alike. The ones outside of school had many mistakes but it was interesting to read. The ones i did write inside of school were dull to read and didn’t have many mistakes."
"I have never been very fond of writing. It has never really attached to me like math, science, and history. It is like a parasite to me, it feeds off of me but I don’t get anything out of the deal. I don’t know if it is the grammar or punctuation in writing, but it just does not like me.
"Overall, I enjoy writing, but since most of the writing I do is in school, I don’t really enjoy it as much. If we get to write about what we want, I could possibly really enjoy this class."
A very common theme in the essays was that many of my students DO write outside of school. And they like it. They find it a great way to express themselves. These students also have the heart of an author and are secret poets, they just don't think that the writing they do has any place in school.
My job this semester is to prove to them that their stories matter.