Veteran teacher and author Colleen Cruz has seen it all and done it all in the writing classroom—and she’s got something to admit: this is hard work. Real hard. In The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, she takes on the common concerns, struggles, and roadblocks that we all face in writing instruction and helps us engage in the process of problem-solving each one.
She centers the book around eleven challenges that Colleen herself has experienced in her own classroom, like students’ obsession with pop culture. She’s asked herself (and maybe you have, too): "I want kids to write about what they care about, but so much of what they care about feels brainless and superficial to me." Colleen shows what’s possible for student engagement and growth when we embrace pop culture within our writing workshop instead of resisting it.
For many of our students, sports, video games, television, movies, and pop music form the fabric of their dominant culture. Their Super Bowl parties and television-watching marathons are just as important to them as mariachis and piñatas were to me growing up. Just as we would never tell a student that she could not write about mariachis, we might consider biting out tongues when she wants to write about whatever latest heartthrob is on the top ten. Our students need to know that we value their lives, all of what goes on in their lives, in order to feel that they can bring and share those lives with their writing in the classroom.
In the following video, Colleen discusses pop culture, it's role in her classroom and how using pop culture can serve as a powerful entry point to writing and analysis.
Join M. Colleen Cruz for a 2-part webinar on May 9th and May 23rd titled "Unstoppable Teaching: Strategies for Making Writing Irresistible" and learn to invite kid culture into hard-to-teach topics—like grammar—and more. Sign up here!
In addition to being the author of The Unstoppable Writing Teacher, M. Colleen Cruz is the author of several other titles for teachers, including Independent Writing and A Quick Guide to Helping Struggling Writers, as well as the author of the young adult novel Border Crossing, a Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award Finalist. She also contributed to multiple titles for the units of study reading and writing series. Colleen was a classroom teacher in general education and inclusive settings before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project where she is Senior Lead Staff Developer. Colleen presently supports schools, teachers, and their students nationally and internationally as a literacy consultant.