Writing and Me
While I was the University of Georgia, I had one professor who had a whole bookshelf of journals and books that were just his own writings. I remember sitting in his office and being impressed--and probably a little overwhelmed--that he had published so much. I wondered how many thousands of pages that was...how many words?
As for me...well...you know, sometimes people talk about "books in heaven." This is not a religious posting at all, but if there was somebody keeping track of everything we've done and we get to see it after we die, then I would really like to see how much I've written. You know, like in "stack format." And if I think of writing that way, then truly I have written bookshelves upon bookshelves upon bookshelves of stuff. Probably miles high.
I spend a lot of time writing comments on my students' papers...that is one form of writing that is quite significant for me. I spend a lot of time writing emails, writing interview protocols, writing summaries of articles I read, and summaries of data I have collected. I write lists everyday. I write agendas and powerpoints. I sometimes write out exercise routines. I'm also a big "cards" person; I love sending cards to my family. For a while, I was the "card specialist" for my church due to my love of writing cards.
And yes, as a gal on the tenure-track, I write a lot of articles, articles, articles. My personal strategy, which I just developed over this last year, is to name each document by the day. So, for instance, I might have "Gestures Article 10-29." And then I never save over it...the next day I just title it "Gestures Article 10-30." So that way, if I decide that I liked something that I had deleted, I can just go back to a previous version and find it again. This method of keeping track of my writing has almost changed my professional life. I make it a goal to write for publication (or for a grant submission) for at least two hours per day.
Some people might think academic writing is boring, and I get their point. I like to joke that my content literacy book will be the next "Harry Potter." Yeah, right. But this focus on academic/anlytical/informational writing hasn't always been the case in my life. When I was in the fourth grade, I remember writing pages upon pages upon pages of poems and stories. I remember that, during all of my eighth grade year, I spent time thinking of a story that I was really passionate about...it was a psychological thriller where the author had a split personality but didn't know it. I spent a long time working on it and crafting it, and I submitted it to my ninth grade Honors English teacher, who gave it an A- with no explanation. And then she gave the class a big long lecture about how she had never received such a dark and disturbing batch of short stories throughout her entire 30-year teaching career.
That experience was actually pretty devastating to me, and took the wind out of my sails for writing fiction. But I still received good grades on my analytical essays and academic writing, and so now I guess I've channeled all of my writing energy into the academic route.
What are the implications for my own teaching? For one, I think it's important for people to explain grades to people rather than giving them grades with no explanation. Second, I think that teachers have to realize that--right or wrong--their words carry authority for young students who are still forming their identities. So it's important that we use that authority carefully.