you-must-write-your-teacher-life

You Must Write Your Teacher Life

Amethyst Hinton Sainz Education, Education Policy, Professional Development, Teacher Leadership, Weblogs

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I am not a natural storyteller. Often, when I tell my husband about something that has happened at school, he will nod expectantly and say, slightly impatiently, “And…?” to hurry me to the point because he knows it might take a while. I’m tangential.

And that is one reason I believe that writing is a good thing in my life. It allows me to rant, cry, pout, veer off into vectors, and spiral back to what is essential. Revision (i.e. chopping down ideas and putting them in an order that makes sense to someone) is a good thing. In my (wonderful) graduate program, I took a class called “Rewriting a Life” by the wise and lovely Tilly Warnock. The premise of the class was that the act of writing out our lives reshapes them, and makes meaning from our memories. One of our texts was You Must Revise Your Life by poet William Stafford, from which I stole the title of this entry. It helps my stories make more sense to my husband if I go through a bit of a selective process before I tell them.

I remember in my teacher ed classes way back in the early ‘90’s, we were advised to keep a reflective journal. It was a great suggestion. But it is quite a commitment to say you will write each day about your teaching. Hats off to those who manage it. I mean, really. Hats off. It is a courageous act, much like videotaping oneself, to keep a teaching diary. I think if I did that I would never re-read it. It’s too terrible to see who we were yesterday. But, for me, it is incredibly helpful to take stock of who I am today.

I have greatly enjoyed keeping both a personal blog (which often veers toward professional issues) and also contributing here. I think it is good policy for teachers to be writers, and here’s why:

A. Personal and professional development. Much like practicing any art form, writing will shape you and your identity.

B. Learning real writing processes. Writing helps us relate to the writing processes our students go through and become better teachers of writing (which most of us, ultimately, are at some point). (For more thoughts on this, see a speech I delivered about the National Board writing process.)

C. Entering the conversation. If you blog your reflections, and read other ed blogs, you will soon find other voices who enrich your professional life. Also, having readers is nice.

D. Creating a diverse chorus of teacher voices which will at some point take out the Death Star (however you define the Death Star). Many policy makers still have a dim idea of what life in the classroom is like. Ideologies drive much of the public conversation. Ideas can be argued, but it is hard to argue with your experiences. The stories of teachers and students are the reality of education today.

Take some time this summer to jot your thoughts. Join the conversation. Have a great summer!

 

 

 

 

 

I currently teach English Language Development at Rhodes Junior High in Mesa Public Schools. I love seeing the incredible growth in my students and being an advocate for them. I am a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts. Before this position I taught high school English in Arizona for 20 years. My alma maters are Blue Ridge High School and the University of Arizona. My bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led me toward the College of Education, and I soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel me throughout my career. My love of language, literature and culture led me to the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College for my masters in English Literature. I am a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for me. I enjoy teaching students across the spectrum of academic ability, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education, as well as exploring more topics in STEM. In recent years, much of my professional development has focused on teacher leadership, but I feel like I am still searching for exactly what that means for me. I live in Mesa, Arizona with my family. I enjoy them, as well as my vegetable garden, our backyard chickens, our dachshund Roxy, reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), hiking and camping, and travel, among other things.

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