Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Author's Hearts and Secret Poets

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.


  1. My daughter used to say that she didn't do anything worthwhile in school, that the teachers had their own agenda & she would follow it to a degree, but only for the grade. What was worthy was outside. There were a few teachers who gave her support, but not many. It saddened me to see that I gave them this brilliant young woman & they only cared that she turned in her assignments. I wish she had had you as a teacher, Deb. The fact that the students are really telling you these things shows so much that you are someone they "want" to trust & show what's important to. Thanks for sharing their words!

  2. Even those who protest they are not a writer, shows they are. When you write a sentence like this, you are a writer."It is like a parasite to me, it feeds off of me but I don’t get anything out of the deal." Their lives are about to change because they met you. Lucky kids!

  3. I think it is amazing to find that many students do write outside of class (wonder if the same ones read, too?). Wonder if the mathmetician/scientist/historian will have a different view by the end of the semester? I imagaine they all will grow as writers!

  4. Interesting how many of these kids do have a writing life, but it just doesn't occur at school. I know, from reading your stories, that that will change this semester!

  5. Bittersweet, really. So sad that our system of education has done that to these authors at heart, but so happy that they are about to journey through a semester of creative writing with you as their mentor! Even the way you capture their words here shows how you treasure the gems in each of them, how you delight in the journey that lies ahead of you all. Happy new semester to you!

  6. A reading and writing revolution, 10 minutes well spent, Deb!

  7. It's so sad how school so often teaches kids to hate reading and writing, the very things we should be most concerned about helping them love! Like you, I'm striving to teach my kids that "their stories matter". I have so many who believe they have nothing to write about, that nobody will care about what they have to say. I know that you will show them the joy of writing, just as you are showing your other classes the joy in reading!