Writing and the Energy to Teach

This was post was inspired by a session at NerdCampNJ on teacher bloggers.  At the end of the session, the session attendees agreed to write about a shared topic: the teacher as writer.  Several of us have contributed blogs to a Google Doc in order to get the ball rolling. Go check out two of the other teacher blogs, written by Ms. Monica Crudele and Mr. Jeff Krapels. Also, go to the comments to post a link to your blog or tell us about your obstacles as a teacher-writer.

Sometimes people ask me how I have the energy to write a weekly post while teaching full time. Without trying it, people assume that it takes more time and energy to write and teach than it does to teach.

Those people are right about the time–I can’t make more of that. But, they are wrong about the energy.

Writing about teaching is one of the biggest sources of energy that I get from my profession. It’s right up there, second only to the energy from kids engaged in learning. So, writing gives me the energy to teach and teaching gives me the energy to write.

It goes some like this:

  1. Something in my teaching seems worthy of sharing or reflecting on. I’m focusing in on one strategy or system, for example, or I’ve read a new book and am implementing its ideas.
  2. I begin to write about it.
  3. As I write about it, I figure it out. For example:  With balancing whole class and independent reading, for example, I realized that I believed in short whole-class texts. For full-length works, the Whole Novels approach is my go-to (here’s why we should read novels). Additionally, I should work on creating a culture of readers while doing both. I believed both of these, but writing about them solidified my thoughts.
  4. Now, with that writing done, those ideas come back into the classroom, more refined.
  5. Going forward, at points I notice that there’s nothing to write about. This also helps me to manage my energy. It means that:
    1. I’m not focused on learning something new
    2. I’m not teaching in a way that energizes me (either because of the content or the pedagogy)
    3. There’s a problem that I’m not addressing (a certain class or student not doing so well, for example)
  6. This is another source of writing material, another place to figure things out on the page. These issues led me to teach for a year without grading. It also led to me reflecting on why my students ignored the reading homework.
  7. The cycle continues: write about teaching, notice the struggles, and figure out those struggles through writing. Repeat.

So, for me, it’s not a matter of finding the time and energy to both teach and write. The two are actually one.

Do you write about your teaching, either for yourself or the public? Post your blog link below. Or, post about what’s holding you back.

6 thoughts on “Writing and the Energy to Teach

  1. Great stuff here! I love the idea that there is a relationship between your teaching and your writing. It also is great that you’ve pretty much diagnosed why you hit writer’s block. Great read (and thanks for the mention).

  2. Thank you for writing this, Gerard. I also teach full-time and write a weekly blog that is also published in my local newspaper. I agree with every word you wrote in this piece. I don’t usually find it too difficult to find things to write about because I am always trying and reflecting on new ideas. I would appreciate it if your readers gave my blog a look. You can find it at http://www.unpackedu.com.

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