I urge teachers to write about their teaching to build more support for their work, and get their stories out to the public in some way. But many ask, “What should I write about? How do I start?” Perhaps this is because so many of us have had our voices silenced, as one teacher describes in a recent Education Week Teacher article.
So here’s a mini lesson on writing a teacher story – at least one way to do it. This would also work well for someone writing about a great teacher he or she had.
- First, it’s a good idea to think about the audience and purpose for your story. If it’s going to a wider public (which I think is really important) here’s what I suggest: Avoid education jargon. It needs to be vivid and grab people’s attention. It ought to have a clear point that non-educators can relate to. And it shouldn’t sound whiny – sure we have plenty of obstacles, but let’s inform people about what good teaching really entails and why it matters.
- Now, think of some very specific, concrete moment in your teaching experience — a student who was a real challenge but who made a breakthrough during the year, or a class that was disengaged and you found a way to reach them. Want examples? Visit my blog on the Patch.com Evanston news site for three great stories. Or read this piece at Education Week Teacher just the other day.
- Next, try to picture one or several very specific moments when this student or class was struggling, resisting, or having a lightbulb go off. One of my favorite examples is in teacher Megan Allen’s testimony to Congress. Write a chunk of narrative to describe this moment (or moments). Ralph Fletcher’s books on teaching writing talk a lot about the power of focusing on such moments.
- Next step: Talk about what you learned from this professional experience — or what you’d like a reader to learn from it, or what it tells us about education policies or practices. This chunk will probably go at or near the end of your piece. You could hint about it at the start, but don’t go into a lot of theory or explanation there because that will bog things down.
- Finally, there will be some trimmings to add — introducing yourself and/or the scene at the start, adding a punch-line at the end, some connective tissue along the way.
I’m sure there are other approaches, but I’ve seen this work really powerfully. So now write your piece and send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org !
Teacher Voice, Teacher writing
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