By Kelly Boswell, author of Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing.
The school year—however it is structured for your school—is well under way. It is important to remember that kids are going through a lot—COVID-19 and its aftermath, yes, but also a divided country and systemic inequalities that have been further exposed and deepened by the pandemic. This is not a business-as-usual kind of school year. While some kids might not be carrying physical backpacks to a physical space like a classroom, you can be sure that many of them are carrying the weightiness of what they have endured or are still enduring.
As teachers, we are in the business of looking out for kids’ well-being—not just their academic achievement. So this year, in particular, be mindful of the human beings in front of you.
Here are some simple reminders:
- Center the student, rather than the content.
- Be on the lookout for ways in which our new ways of doing things this year might create or sustain inequities.
- Ask questions.
- Listen, really listen to kids. Respect their experiences, their perspectives and their voices.
- Help kids see writing as a vehicle of power, a way to tell their stories, and perhaps a way to heal.
• • •
Download Teaching Writers Remotely, a FREE companion resource using the principles from Every Kid A Writer by Kelly Boswell.
Keep Your Own Humanity in Mind
Friends, there is not one shred of evidence that shows a positive correlation between the hours that you work and student success. And, when all this is over, there will be no prize for who worked the hardest. We just might be gearing up for a marathon, not a sprint. So, if you haven't already, start now to develop some self-care routines, some solid boundaries, and some positive practices in your own life. These aren’t just nice ideas or selfish behaviors. If we, as teachers, let ourselves become depleted and joyless, school might become a joyless experience for kids. We owe it to ourselves and the kids we serve.
Here are just a few things to consider:
- Set office hours and stick to them. When “work” is done, close your laptop and do something that fills your soul. Take a walk, paint, read, cook, watch Netflix, play catch with your kids, pet your dog, etc.
- Read a book—for fun. Get lost in a romance or a mystery or a historical fiction book. Listen to an audiobook while you take a walk. Savor the rich language and stories from other writers.
- Write, even if it’s only a sentence or two. Each day, jot down something for which you are grateful for or something funny that a kid said. Send a thank you note. Send a postcard to the parents of your students. (This could be stretched out over several days so you are only writing one postcard a day.) Start to see yourself as a writer— one who writes—and share that writing life with your students.
- Take a breath. And another. And another.
- Ask for help and support. No one is expecting this year to be easy. We need each other. Ask for help and support. Offer help and support to others.
- Show yourself (and others) loving kindness. Don’t strive for perfection. Be kind to yourself for showing up and doing hard things. Be kind to others; they are showing up and doing hard things, too.
- Make peace with failure. I recently heard someone talking about learning how to confer with writers remotely. He said, “I’ve learned how to fail and be okay with it.” None of us like this truth, but failure teaches us so much. In my office, I’ve displayed these words: “Fail. Learn. Move on.” It’s the reminder to myself to make peace with failure, brush myself off, and try again. That’s how we learn.
• • •To learn move about Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Everyone Writing visit Heinemann.com.
Kelly Boswell has many years of experience as a classroom teacher, staff developer, literacy coach, and district literacy specialist. She is the author of many books, including several nonfiction children’s books. Kelly works with schools and districts around the country to support educational leaders, coaches, and teachers. Her emphasis is on developing literacy practices that help students become joyful and passionate readers and writers. Follow her on Twitter @KellyMBoswell.