Teachers as Writers: Clarifying Your Practice and Empowering the Profession

I write to uncover what I know and discover what I don’t know.

Marilynne Robinson, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, believed that “We are part of a mystery, a splendid mystery within which we must attempt to orient ourselves if we are to have a sense of our own nature.”

Those mysteries are within all teachers, the things we do intuitively but have trouble articulating. Writing is a way to unearth those hidden parts of ourselves and our teaching that deserve to come to the surface. It is a way to think reflectively and to make sense of the techniques that work in our classrooms, clarifying our approaches and making us more empathetic to our students’ needs.

Over the past two years, I’ve written to uncover and clarify:

I also write to discover what I do not know. Writing is my means to learn, grow, and make my way down the path toward deeper understanding. The repetition of teaching can be overcome by writing. It allows me to investigate new ways to inspire, to excite, to spark a curious flame, test those methods in my classroom, then ultimately write about the experience to make sense of it all.

I have written to discover:

How to Write as a Teacher

Blogging matters. Despite what pessimists think, blogging is not an act of narcissism, a way to call attention to ourselves and feed the ego. 

It is a source of control for teachers. It gives power to truth of our experience. By sharing the struggles and the triumphs we have in our own classrooms, we reveal our authentic selves. We prove that being in a classroom is more complicated, dynamic, and beautifully mysterious than those outside of education initially fathomed.

Blogging allows us, as teachers, to shape the conversation, taking control away from those that are removed from the classroom and restoring it with its rightful owners — those that fight for students’ attention, those that stay up late into the night to give meaningful feedback, those whose worth is tied into the bottom line of an evaluation metric.

Talks with Teachers has always been a place for me to make sense of it all. It has allowed me to be reflective as a teacher, using my writing as a way to articulate that which interests me. It has also been a place for other teachers to guest post and share what excites them and what has worked in their classrooms.

E.B. White once said, “writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.”

How to Begin

I hope to see more teachers use writing as a self-empowering way to inform their own teaching and shape the public’s perception of what it means to be a teacher. I hope more take the leap and create meaningful blogs in the new year. Sure, there is a purpose and a place for class blogs that list assignments, link to resources, and offer a teacher bio. But I believe there is room, nay a need, for more substantial blogs that tackle big topics, inspire others, and seek to make sense of how beautifully complicated teaching can be.

Trust me, any act of creativity always comes with some level of fear — what if I don’t know where to start, what if no one reads what I write, what if I can’t keep it up. I have made just about every mistake there is, and I still stay with it because writing, with all its flaws, is more important to me than not writing. The only way to let go of fear is to believe in yourself and know it will never be perfect because no one is.

As Gandhi said, “to believe in something, and not to live it, is to be dishonest.” Believe in the the audacious power of you.

To start creating a wonderful blog, here are the three resources that have been invaluable to my growth as a blogger.

  • Fizzle — Most blogs fizzle and fade after a few weeks, Fizzle shows you how to define your topic, create a blog that matters, and build an audience. Start a trial membership for FREE for the first two weeks.
  • Maria Popova, of Brain Pickings, on the Tim Ferriss podcast discusses how to start a successful blog
  • Edutopia — They share what works in education. A simple mission, executed without bias or ego.
  • Sarah J. Donovan

    I remember when you asked me about why teachers should write. This prompted me to add this list to my blog for others, but also to remind myself why I felt compelled to start my own blog: http://www.ethicalela.com/about-us/write/. Writing helps me make sense of teaching and is evidence that our work (and our lives) defy measurement — as do our students, who are complex, beautiful human beings (not RIT numbers on MAP, lexile scores, a “meets” on PARCC, or even a letter grade).

  • Dawn Ackroyd

    I don’t write enough, but when I do, these are the reasons I write too! You have inspired me to write more. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

  • Fantastic Brian…again. Always good reminders.

  • Samuel Gorbold

    I write everyday for my blogs and think that it is the most inspired and greateful period in my life.
    If you write – you live.