Why I love teaching writing

It’s a great title for a blog entry. It’s also true… except when my backpack mocks me sporting eight ungraded final essays from the co-op which ended two weeks ago. Between graduation and Brave Writer demands, my will to correct essays has floundered. But I pledge to tackle them as soon as I click “post” and this entry is up for view on the site.

So back to the original topic. Why do I love teaching writing? Because I love seeing kids transform into the writers they are meant to be.

In the seven and a half years of Brave Writer’s existence, we’ve had some notable writing successes. I celebrate with these kids and moms via email. I realized today that I ought to be celebrating with you too. Here are a few of them that stand out to me in my memory.

  • Do you remember eight-year-old Gabrielle (who wrote “Adventuring Maid” on page 114 of The Writer’s Jungle)? At fifteen, she has just recently published her tenth magazine article. She also started her own online magazine as the editor-in-chief and has been the means to publishing other kids’ writing.
  • How about Anne (whose essays are featured in Help for High School)? She lives in Thailand and taught a writing co-op (using Help for High School) to homeschooled missionary kids last year. One of her essays earned her a scholarship to Wheaton College.
  • Another student (Paul) received such high praise for his junior college English placement test essay, the department asked if they may use it as a model for future applicants.
  • Sarah, a local student, completed a full length novel manuscript (fantasy) during her senior year of high school that she asked me to edit. She went on to college as an art student and wowed her professor with her writing skills.
  • Do you remember David (whose writing collage is featured in Help for High School)? He’s now writing song lyrics for his band which will tour this summer and recently commented in an article for our homeschool co-op that he intends to write a book because (as he said) he’s a “really good writer.”
  • One of my students (Bennett, who I share about anonymously in The Writer’s Jungle) is now an adult, married and about to become a father. At sixteen, he couldn’t write a paragraph. He began in the “Jot it Down” stage and by the time he left high school, could write an entire essay without help. Imagine my complete joy and surprise to find out that he earned A’s in all his college English courses.
  • Johannah (my 17 year old daughter, natural writer) earned a $500.00 scholarship at her high school for an essay she wrote about Pride and Prejudice how Elizabeth Bennett served as a role model for standing up for your convictions against the prevailing cultural norms. What makes this all the more rewarding is that she is a part time student competing against the top students in the local school. (This one is particularly gratifying, naturally. :))
  • Noah (my 19 year old son, ”reluctant writer”) received his first A on a timed essay exam in linguistics. His professor wrote in the margin of his timed essay “Now that’s an essay.”

I could go on and on telling you about kids who hated writing, who now love it; kids who discovered their writing voices, who found out that what they had to say mattered, who broke through in written self-expression in meaningful ways. I remember last year when I spoke at a conference, a mother brought her son with her to hear me speak because, as she told me later, he was “a fan.” He told me I had changed his writing life and consequently made his schooling that much more enjoyable. But what I saw in him was not a reflection of my efforts, rather, the confident triumph of having transformed his writing experience into a valuable tool for his future.

It is the writing itself that produces these great rewards and feelings of accomplishment, not anyone’s praise. Publishing, A’s, affirmation: these all merely reinforce what is experienced when a writer succeeds in writing. The writer knows before anyone else that the writing “worked.” The rest is confirmation.

Brave Writer courses and discussion groups, tools and resources are the catalyst for helping both reluctant and talented writers flourish. In the end, though, what satisfies these kids is “having written.” They come to trust their own voices, their insights and passions, their beliefs and convictions. They know that given a pen (or keyboard) and time, they can convey what they need to in order to achieve their goals. They have a host of formats to choose from and they feel comfortable making the choices. In short, they communicate their vision to readers who appreciate them. No wonder they’re happy.

I invite you to share any of your own success stories. No matter how great or small, they all reflect the joy of discovery when a child goes from seeing writing as a school subject to writing as the successful expression of self to interested readers.

One Response to “Why I love teaching writing”

  1. Linda says:

    What an encouraging entry! My 9yo son struggled with a writing curriculum that “everyone” raved out. He found it dry and difficult, and as a result, balked at the assignments. Teaching writing became the bane of our school experience.

    God’s timing is perfect. My son found his old journal–one that we had written together (he narrated while I recorded) when he was 5 or 6. He laughed and laughed at his old entries and asked if he could start writing in his journal again. I replied, “Of course!” Then the light bulb went off. I realized that it was better for him to feel passionate about writing–at his own speed–than to slog through a curriculm that he detested. So I put aside those manuals for a while.

    Someone mentioned Brave Writer on a homeschool board. It sounded fascinating. Imagine my surprise when I read your articles on how to encourage reluctant writers. I had been following some of the Brave Writer principles without knowing it! This confirmed that we are on the right track, and I am eagerly waiting for my copy of The Writer’s Jungle.

    Thanks, Julie!