This week’s readings on authenticity are quite well paired. The article entitled, Teachers: Then, Now and Next illustrates the importance of teachers continuing to develop themselves professionally as writers in their field. Our second reading, Teaching Writing Authentically brings the work that teachers are doing in their own lives into the classroom; Lidvall encourages teachers to help students find a purpose to write just as teacher-writers also do.
I feel connected to idea that teachers are advocates and should use writing to promote what is happening in their classroom. The reading states that “writing can change perspectives that shape teaching practice” (179). In my experiences within the professional educator community, I have found this to be true. For example, Twitter is a popular source for educators to write and advocate. Some teachers share links to their blog posts while others share key take-aways in just 140 characters. These writings allow teachers to reflect on their own instruction as well as create a community where best practice can be discussed and evaluated. As a result, teachers are sharing the day-to-day informal research that they do in their own classroom and creating a public body of knowledge that drives the field forward. My own teaching practice has been shaped by the resources I have found on Twitter as well as the Twitter Chats that I have participated in. As the article states, the next action for these teacher-writers should be to leverage their collaboration to become even more powerful advocates within the field.
While teachers are writing with goals ranging from reflection to sharing to advocacy, Lidvall’s article, Get Real: Instructional Implications for Authentic Writing Activities makes it clear that students also need such a relevant purpose to their writing. I have noticed a theme thus far in our readings that appears again in Lidvall’s work. First, students need to write about a subject of their choice. Second, they need a real audience. The combination of these two will increase student interest in writing in turn leading to them becoming better writers. I fully agree with Lidvall’s argument. I am reminded of The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell. Ms Gruwell’s students were such a success because she was able to give them a real reason to write. What they wrote had meaning outside the classroom. Her example should be one that we all imitate as much as possible.
As teachers, we need to realize how writing is changing in the digital age. For instance, the last time that I wrote a 5 paragraph essay was in high school. This is not the type of writing that our students are doing yet we spend much time instructing it. Our students are sending emails to teachers, writing captions on Snapchat and texting. As teachers, we need to expose ourselves to their world. Our responsibility is to find out what writing is important in today’s society and adapt our teachings to meet the skills our students need. I commend Lidvall for starting a classroom newspaper that models such real world skills.
As an educator, I appreciated the practicality of Lidvall’s article. From the detailed lesson plans to the inclusion of the materials, Lidvall provided teachers with a curriculum that can be implemented immediately. There needs to be more of this within the field. Often teachers are told the goal - make writing authentic - without any support in how to get there. I find that teachers are not necessarily opposed to this goal but struggle to find ways to accomplish it. Lidvall’s materials give teachers the starting point that the need. As I write my lesson plans for the week, I am keeping this idea of making writing authentic in mind and striving to find ways that I can connect my students to a world outside our classroom.