by Jill DeRosa
My writing identity is something I lived a long time without. Until I was in my thirties, writing for me was a task to complete; a report for school, a reaction paper, a letter to a parent. My writing was driven by something I needed to accomplish for my job, my school, or for my family. Writing was not enjoyable for me, it was always done with a purpose that was driven by outside forces. I did not see myself as a writer. Not for one minute.
It wasn’t until I became friends with, Jenn Hayhurst. She is a writer who knows how powerful our words can be. She is not afraid to take risks and put her ideas on paper and into the world. She says we have ideas to share with the world and asks if I would be willing to write alongside her. I am afraid because I don’t see myself as a writer. I am confident in my ability to teach but writing about it is a totally different thing. Jenn is supportive and I decide to give it a try, starting out small. As we write together, I start to see a change in me. I am a writer. I just needed to write about things that mattered to me. I needed to write for myself first and then for my audience. My writing had to be sparked by things I cared about and wanted to share.
I take my writing experiences with me into my classroom each and every day. Do I provide time for my students to find their writing identities? How do I make room in our curriculum to provide room for choice in writing and tools? In classrooms, I often see teachers facing a similar dilemma; when we are writing in a certain mode or in a unit of study, how can we make room for authentic writing that is sparked by what matters to our students. We need to make the time, this is the place where our students will find their identities; writing alongside partners or in groups, creating comics, writing series about characters they have created, writing informational pieces about gross insects or dangerous animals. Nothing makes me happier than looking around my classroom and seeing kids fully engaged in writing that matters to them knowing that their words are powerful and can make a difference. Students bringing in writing they have done at home or bring their writing to recess because they just can’t stop writing; it is a part of who they are.
It is through a friendship and a deep appreciation for writing that my writing identity was formed. It’s never too late to find yours.