Changing Your Practice through Writing

Congratulations to Jill Stedronsky, Drew Writing Project and Digital Literacies Collaborative Teacher Consultant, for the publication of her practice in “Inquiry Ignites! Pushing Back Against Traditional Literacy Instruction.” This chapter, co-authored with Kristen Hawley Turner, was published in Acts of Resistance: Subversive Teaching in the English Language Arts Classroom. Below Jill shares her thoughts on writing this piece.

by Jill Stedronsky

I always was the mom of a writer. Today, writing has become a regular routine for me, professionally and personally. Recently, when I was discussing a boyfriend with my insightful 24 year-old son, he retorted, “Write about it, Mom, your pen will reveal the answer.” It seems natural that writing has not only changed me as a teacher, but as a human being. Putting down the words forces me to face my beliefs and analyze my actions. Re-reading my thoughts uncovers unconscious thoughts. And, that is the reason that we should all write!

Over this past year, I wrote about my classroom practices, and it pushed me to think more deeply about them. And now, in my first published piece, a chapter in Acts of Resistance: Subversive Teaching in the English Language Arts Classroom, I show how inquiry, purpose, curiosity and authentic projects lead to engaged and intrinsically motivated students. Initially, trying to articulate my beliefs and explain how and why I changed my classroom in under 8000 words was a challenge. Every time I sat down to write, the overarching idea would change. During the process an unexpected reward occurred: writing about my practice helped me uncover more pieces to the puzzle. Pieces that truly confused me. It was the writing process that revealed how the challenges I saw in the classroom were related. Continuing to write about my practice has helped me realize the connection among the various components and uncovered new ones. Because I wrote, sorted through my research, struggled to communicate my thoughts on paper, I discovered a new area of my inquiry into education. It has been a great reminder for me as my students build TED talks. I need to give them ample time while researching to write articles to uncover, discover and find threads to connect ideas. 

My teaching practice changed because I wrote about it. As a teacher I know that writing deepens your understanding, but it’s easy to forget that it also reveals new ideas and questions. Discussing ideas can ferret out the roots of a topic, but nothing works as effectively as writing. Putting the words on paper means you have to finish every thought, and they need to be well articulated for someone to understand your message. 

Thanks to the National Writing Project, I teach the curriculum that I created because I wrote about it. And, by the way, I am no longer dating that guy!

Flyer for Acts of Resistance, the book where Jill's writing is published

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