I am beginning a new writing project with my juniors tomorrow. They are going to be looking at maps of places they love and using them to tell a story. We’ve been doing writing in preparation for it for the last week, and I’m excited to see what my students come up with; they’ve impressed me so much in the last few weeks.
But I’m nervous too. Not because I don’t think they can do it (I do). Not because I don’t think they’ll like it (they won’t, at first, then they will). I’m nervous because I’m committed to doing the writing with them. So I, too, have to choose a place I love. I, too, have to find maps of that place. I, too, have to do all of the drafting and planning and revision that they do. Usually I don’t mind writing with my students; I can churn out a literary essay or a memoir in my sleep. But in this case I feel my students’ anxiety of limiting my choices, of choosing the wrong thing, of regretting my decisions.
I will stress tomorrow that the decision they make tomorrow is not final. They will begin their planning and writing tomorrow, but they may realize the place they’ve chosen isn’t the right one for them. I will model my thought process, talk about my fears, let them see my vulnerability.
If I’ve gained nothing else from the Slice of Life Challenge (and I think I’ve gained a lot of things, but more on that later), I’ve realized that writing is really all about being vulnerable. I’ve written about things I was unsure of sharing, things I wasn’t sure how to say. And nothing bad happened. The world didn’t explode and people even reacted positively. That’s something I want to be sure to model to my students during this process, more than grammar or organization or figurative language. Writing is about taking risks and making mistakes. That might be the most valuable lesson I give them this year.