Writing this column is one of the hardest things I’ve done this year. When it was time to write:
I deep-cleaned my apartment.
I did the dishes.
I graded 80 expository essays.
My computer screen stared at me accusingly as I did everything in my power to ignore the thoughts churning through my mind: “What if these 300 words aren’t good enough? What if I don’t have anything to say that someone else couldn’t have said? And it has to sound good -- I’m the Composition teacher!”
What struck me as I finally sat down to face the blank document before me is that it takes courage to be honest and to share part of yourself through writing.
In my sixth grade Composition classroom, vulnerability is important -- and scary. At the beginning of the year, I tell my students, “You will share your writing!” and they do -- from sharing creative “Where I’m From” poems to the introduction paragraph of argument essays. My students become accustomed to putting their work under the Elmo and reading it to their peers.
Out of all the writing my students have shared this year, I’ve been most impressed by their Quickwrites. The assignment is simple: Write a response to another piece of writing in three to five minutes. Students can borrow a word or phrase from the original piece. Some students write reflective paragraphs while others gravitate toward writing poetry or funny narratives. The beauty of the Quickwrite is that it is a tool to force students to write without self-censoring. When you only have three to five minutes to write, you have to write from who you are. It is a greenhouse for vulnerability.
What has struck me again and again is how creative and insightful our students are -- and how authentic and vulnerable they are willing to be with each other.
Vulnerability is hard, but it’s important in both writing and relationships. God calls us to live in community with each other, and there is no community without authenticity. I am thankful for the sixth graders who inspire me in the practice of sharing my thoughts, even when it scares me.