Written by Kali Copplin
I applied to the Southern Nevada Writing Project Writing Institute after being told it would help me become a better writing teacher. Teaching writing had been the bane of my existence. I would watch the clock slowly tick by counting down the seconds until I could tell my students to put their writing away and begin cleaning up the classroom. The day we interviewed for the Writing Institute I knew I had blown it when I stated that “I hated writing.” However, I was delightfully surprised when I was invited back to participate
The first day in the class, hearing what was expected of us, made me question my decision to participate. The term “Response Group Protocol” filled me with trepidation. I loved the people I saw everyday but hated the thought of writing and sharing. Slowly though, I began to take more pride in my work. Revising pieces over and over allowed me to really break down my writing and see what was working and what wasn’t. Working on the same piece over multiple weeks allowed me to truly feel pride over what I was accomplishing. Sharing my work and thoughts was suddenly easier than it had ever been. I began to gain a confidence in myself that I had never had before.
As a part of the Writing Institute, I created a plan to establish a writer’s workshop in my classroom. Writing had become dull and lifeless in my class. My goal was to change my student’s attitudes about writing and show them the endless possibilities writing could offer. I knew what I was bringing back to my classroom. I had a plan for my students and I knew it was going to work. There were still kinks to work out and obstacles to overcome but I was ready to tackle them with a renewed vigor; it was as if suddenly teaching writing didn’t seem so daunting.
I implemented my writer’s workshop with much success. Although everything didn’t go according to plan – the pacing didn’t meet mine; there were rubrics to consider, and the students were less exposed to writing than I had anticipated – I found it didn’t really matter. I didn’t doubt myself or my plan, I just adjusted accordingly. I didn’t stress out, I took a step back and revised. And when asked at meetings what I was doing during writing for my kids, I excitedly shared their progress and the process we were going through together.
My ELA strategist began inviting me to share my experience with writing at meetings – something I hadn’t experienced before. My grade level chair came to me to talk about writing and what we could do to engage our students. I was suddenly confident in my ability to help people plan their writing lessons and gave my opinion freely. I didn’t dread writing anymore and even changed up my schedule to allow more time for it.
My goal going into the Writing Institute had been to change student attitudes about writing, much like mine had been changed. I wasn’t sure I was successful until the day writing was canceled to attend an assembly and my students let out a collective sigh of sadness. I couldn’t believe I had finally done it – helped my students learn to love writing.
These days, my students can’t wait to get started on writing. They constantly ask me if they can work on writing during our reading block and are always eager to share their newest ideas. I can honestly say in my few short years teaching, I have never had more confidence in myself than I do now. I don’t shy away from opportunities, I tackle them. I enjoy sharing what’s working in my classroom with others and even my failures. I didn’t just learn to be a better writing teacher, I learned to trust myself and the process.
Kali Copplin is a first-grade teacher at Laura Dearing Elementary and a teacher-consultant with the Southern Nevada Writing Project.