#19 Building Better Writers with Troy Hicks




Troy Hicks

Associate Professor of English Education, Former Middle School Teacher

(Central Michigan University) 


 Segment I – Background and Inspiration


Tell your story. Where are you from and how long have you been teaching? What classes have you taught? 


– Troy teaches at Central Michigan University. He is also involved in the National Writing Project in his area in Michigan.  To backtrack, he graduated from MSU and taught middle school at a rural school in Concord, Michigan. He eventually went back to MSU to earn his graduate degree and eventually made his way into higher education. troy hicks


 Who has helped you in your journey to become a master teacher? 


– He had a mentor from Day 1 at his middle school in Concord. Chris Miller was the 7th grade science teacher and Troy was the 7th grade Language Arts teacher.  Chris was focused on the students. He would joke that he was so student-focused that he didn’t begin teaching science until mid-September. When Troy was deciding to stay in the classroom or going to graduate school to pursue Education, Chris gave him the most timely and sympathetic encouragement to pursue goals beyond the four walls of the school.  


It is important for other teachers to know that we all have had setbacks in the classroom. Identify an instance in which you struggled as a teacher and explain what you learned from that experience.


– He felt he had read all the right books during his undergraduate experience about reading and writing workshops. When he got into teaching, like many first and second year teachers, suddenly the book became his curriculum. He eventually learned to let go and give students more choice. Ultimately he learned to strike a balance between what he had to do that was mandated by the curriculum and what he felt the students needed or wanted to do.


Why is literacy important?

– Troy believes that if we don’t frame literacy as a thinking process, then it is really difficult to make the case for literacy with math, science and social studies. We want students to be critical thinker and have substantive conversations. 


What is one thing that you love about the classroom?


 – The thing that he talks about with his pre-service students and what he took away from his middle school years is the moment of discovery. To sit with a student, conference with him or her, and see the lightbulb go off, is a small moment that he really values.


Segment II — Digging into the Teacher Bag of Goodies
While there are a number of classics,
Troy tends to recommend the book that he is reading at the moment.Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching is a book that he reviewed. It is written by Meenoo Rami, a young, energetic teacher that is doing great things in the classroom. He found it refreshing, clear and concise. 


What is one thing a teacher can do outside the classroom that can pay off inside the classroom?

— Troy believes that you have to take time for yourself. Put it on your calendar because you might not do it. make time to read. Watch the show you’ve been meaning to watch. Go for walks. You have to invest in yourself .

 Is there an internet resource that you can recommend which will help teachers grow professionally?

www.digitalis.nwp.org has layer upon layer of resources. The NWP Digital Is website is an emerging and open knowledge base created and curated by its community of members. We gather resources, collections, reflections, inquiries, and stories about what it means to learn and teach writing in our increasingly digital and interconnected world. 


Provide a writing practice that is effective?

 – One minute of conferencing is worth 15 minutes of comments on the paper. We also need to focus on what students can do for eat other as readers and writers. They can provide useful feedback but we have to teach them how to be specific. We have to model it and provide sentence/question stems so that they are equipped to say things of value. 

Update the cannon. What book, written in the last 10-15 years, belongs in the classroom?

— Troy would like to see read more in school is The Book Thief. It is a very thoughtfully worded book that is incredibly rich with ideas.